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11/09/2008 – Interview with CRYSTALLION

These days there are lots of releases in the Death and Black Metal genre, as it seems to be their turn to become overcrowded. But that doesn't mean that the other overcrowded gerne, Power Metal, doesn't bring forth new blood. One of those is the German band CRYSTALLION (official website), who released their second album, under the title "Hattin", a few months ago via Dockyard 1 (home to DEGRADEAD, IRON SAVIOR, SAVAGE CIRCUS, AFTER ALL, PERSUADER, and many more). You can read the review at this location. Due to a few obvious reasons it's only now that I managed to mail the band, via Rock Inc., some questions, but better later than not, right? Vocalist Thomas Strübler took the time to answer and send back the answers quite rapidly.

Enjoy this Q&A and if you're into STRATOVARIUS, SONATA ARCTICA, GALLOGLASS and similar, check out CRYSTALLION.

Crystallion logo

Starting off with bio-related stuff: How was the band formed?

The band was formed by Stefan and Martin in 2003. However, they have made music together for most of their lives. Manuel and Patrick have been in the band since then, I joined in 2005 and Florian came into the band in Spring 2007.

Are you all trained musicians or was there also self-teaching involved?

A lot of self-teaching has been involved. I'm not sure if Stefan ever had a bass-teacher at all! Manuel is studying music in Munich and I took singing lessons for several years but that does not mean that there wasn't any self-teaching. You can do a lot with books and CDs if you have the perseverance.

Is there a special reason for the name CRYSTALLION?

Not really... Martin told me that one day he was thinking about possible bandnames and tried to find something which was not a trivial everyday word and so he came up with CRYSTALLION. It doesn't have any special meaning but you can interpret it as you like!

How are songs created in the band? Do you work with ideas and then send them to everyone else to further develop them? Or do you have to be together, rehearsing, to breed on ideas?

No. Until now it was always Stefan who wrote the songs and even half of the lyrics. The lyrics for the rest of the songs were written by me after he had sent me the song. Of course the guitarists can choose what to play for solos.

Crystallion bandYour debut album was positively reviewed by Rock Hard and this seems to be very important for future reference, at least with your new album, "Hattin". How important is this for you, that a (big) magazine hails or speaks ill of you/your music?

It is indeed important for us, not just for our ego but because of the fact that it's much more people who read the big printed magazines. Chances of success are much bigger if you get positive reviews in the big magazines, I think (sorry to say that!).

When did you start writing the songs for "Hattin"?

Soon after the release of "A Dark Enchanted Crystal Night". We did some shows to promote the first album but did not take too much time off from writing because we wanted to release another album as soon as possible. There are so many good bands that we didn't want to risk being forgotten in the time between our first two albums.

"Hattin" has been out since a few months now. How have the responses been so far?

Responses have been predominantly well, even better than with the first album. Of course there are also critical voices but we were prepared for that - if you play the kind of metal we do, there is always someone who says "we've heard that before". But we continue doing what we like best and if a lot of people like it as well - even better!

Musically, but somehow vocally as well, I had to thin of GALLOGLASS a few times. That's a coincidence, right? Or is this one of the bands you like and therefore used them as influence, next to STRATOVARIUS, SONATA ARCTICA and the likes?

I have to admit that I don't know the band GALLOGLASS, in fact I've never heard that bandname before, so they were no influence for us. But of course we cannot and don't want to deny that STRATOVARIUS or SONATA ARCTICA (and many more) have influenced us in one way or the other.

If I may say, and I also mentioned it in the review, I found the production a bit flat. The guitars and especially the drums lacked power. Was this a deliberate choice or didn't everything go as smooth as wanted? Or is it because the keyboards have an important role to fulfill?

Well, what I can say is that we are content with what the album sounds like, but there are indeed some things we will do differently on the next album. Personally I don't think that on "Hattin" we had the best drum sound ever, but Martin says it was intended like that for this particular album. The keyboards do have a very important role on the album and I think they sound really great.

Of course, less heaviness means easier for the ears and also more fitting for radioplay. Is that the case? And are there specific Rock/Metal stations in Germany or is it like in most places that this kind of music is reserved for one or two hours in a seperate programme?

It is more or less like that. I am from Austria so I don't know too much about the German radio-market, but as far as I know there are only very few stations that play metal regularly. And I'm not sure if our new songs are more suitable for airplay... they are longer than the songs on the first album and also more complex when it comes to the different parts - so I'm not sure about that!

Inline with the question about the sound, I would like to know your opinion about this:
-- a) Some bands got big with this style (EDGUY, STRATOVARIUS, SONATA ARCTICA, AVANTASIA, BLIND GUARDIAN, FREEDOM CALL, HELLOWEEN, and more), but over the years they turned softer, more Hard Rock influenced. I like Hard Rock, but isn't it like betraying your fans when straying away from something that made your name and fishing for a more commercial approach? Wouldn't it be better to use another name for that?
-- b) Newer bands in the (Melodic) Power Metal genre (like CRYSTALLION, if I may) are labeled as such, but the songs lack heaviness, roughness, due to a very polished production that illiminates anything that has "Power", thus also making it Light Metal. The use of keyboards also plays a big role. The past few years I haven't found that many interesting bands to continue the legacy of the bigger names. Therefore I turned to extremer genres like Thrash, Black and especially Death Metal. What's your view on this, the superpolished productions or Soft Metal that has sort of replaced Power Metal?

Apart from the thing with the keyboards I understand what you mean. New technology makes many things possible that couldn't be done only 10 or 15 years ago. This technology makes it easier for the musician to record an album that sounds good, so I would say you can only judge the quality of a band when you see them live because in the studio (almost) everything is possible by now. Of course I don't agree with you that there is no "power" on the CRYSTALLION album and to call the music on that album Hard Rock would certainly be wrong. If you compare "Hattin" with the last FREEDOM CALL album you will hear that we are certainly more edgy (and I like FREEDOM CALL!). So my opinion is that Heavy Metal should not sound too polished and sterile, the power has to be there, but as you can imagine, I think it is there on our album.

Hattin coverWho drew the cover art and did you have something to say in this?

The cover artwork was done by a friend of the band, but we told him what we wanted to have. He also came up with some ideas and what you hold in hands now is the result of this cooperation of the band and the artist.

Since the lyrics are based on a historical event, I assume history interests you. What about history (or what kind of eras, events, persons, ...) intrigues you and why did you pick the battle at Hattin for this album?

History is the essence of our culture. We wouldn't not be what we are and where we are if history had not been as it was. It is intrigueing to learn about how things came about and developed, how different things were important in different periods in history. How mankind was close to it's doom and managed to recover and also, sadly, how we don't learn from our mistakes from the past. Knowing about the past makes it possible to cherish what we have today.

When dealing with historical matters, do you want to stick to the facts or do you try to add your own impression and ideas to it?

We try to stick to the facts as well as we can. It is more about telling the story than expressing our own opinions. It would also be difficult to include the views of all band members in the lyrics.

How easy/difficult was it to put the battle into lyrics? Did you use a certain method to dissect the most important elements to work with or did you put yourself in the role of one of the knights to better imagine the events?

It was certainly more difficult to write the lyrics for "Hattin" than for "A Dark Enchanted Crystal Night", just because I had to read a lot about those events to be able to filter out the things which had to be included on the album to make the whole story understandable for the listener. I did not put myself in the role of one of the knights, I rather tried to include as many characters as possible, all with their own view of the events.

Crystallion bandWill there be another album based on a historical event or do you work album per album and don't plan ahead?

We have started writing songs for the next album so I can tell you that it will be another concept album about a certain period in history, but this time it will be more than 600 years later in Western Europe.

You've got a deal with Dockyard 1. Is it just for this album or did you sign for several releases? And what made you sign with them? Did they have the best/better offer?

The contract includes options for more albums and this is also one of the reason why we signed with Dockyard 1. We also wanted to release our second album with a bigger company than our first one so Dockyard 1 were just the right company at the right time.

Germany is a Metal country, as many bands have spawned from there and each year there are many festivals. There are also lots of places to gig. In this context, will you remain in your home country or also go abroad? Or do you prefer to wait until another album is finished so you can go on a tour?

We have also played in Switzerland and Austria, but concerts over the next few months will be in Germany only. Of course we would like to play abroad more often, but it is also always a matter of money. We just cannnot afford to go abroad more often, so we hope that our album will sell lots of copies and make us rich! :-)

Is any of you active in another band and how easily can you combine everything, including any dayjobs you might have?

I think that at the moment it is only Florian and myself who are active in other bands. But these are coverbands or bands without record deal. Until now it has not been a problem to combine band stuff and dayjobs, but we hope it soon will!

That's it for me. Good luck with "Hattin", the gigs and if possible, make the new album rougher (at least more than now). ;-) I'm only offering a suggestion, since it's still you who decide about what and how. Any final words you want to add?

Thanks for introducing us to your readers! Guys and girls, if you like traditional metal, buy our album and watch out for gigs!

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