Nico sits down and has an exclusive interview with Graeme Farmer of Lancastrian black metal outfit WOLFTHORN to discuss the up-and-coming album and other things.
Nico: Greetings Graeme. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. The band [Wolfthorn] recently stated on their official Facebook that there’s a full length album in the making. How’s that going for you guys?
Graeme: Cheers mate, thanks for the opportunity to chat and for showing interest in the band! The album is coming along very nicely, thanks. The bulk of it was recorded in Lancaster during the first few months of 2011. At the minute I’m just re-recording some of the lead and acoustic guitar parts at home, and adding small things like keyboard tracks. After that, it’s just a case of mixing and mastering etc, so with any luck it will be released by the autumn. It contains a mix of brand new songs and songs that have been a staple of our live shows for some time, but which were not recorded for the EP. The title of the album will be The Cold Descent of Eternal Winter. I’d say on the whole that it will be a darker, heavier and more progressive record than Echoes was, with the lyrical content continuing to focus on the people, places and events that helped shape the history of the British isles. There’s also a couple of nature-inspired tracks, which is something we haven’t touched upon much before.
N: In regards to the keyboard sections on some of the tracks, will some of the tracks be more symphonic heavy or will the keyboard sections just be there for a more atmospheric effect?
G: They’re there to add atmosphere to the tracks primarily. We don’t have a keyboard player in the band, so we were very conscious that if the keyboard tracks were too prominent the songs would sound totally different when we came to perform them live. We used some synth tracks in Twilight in Valinor and Sworn in Blood on the EP and felt they worked quite well, so they’ll appear in a few more songs on the album, but they’re very much there to thicken out certain riffs rather than to become a dominant element in the song.
N: That’s good then. When the album is out, do you all plan to tour in support of it or just play a big release show in Lancaster?
G: That depends if people in other towns want to see us play! We haven’t played much outside the north west as of yet, but that’s certainly something we’re looking to change. There will almost certainly be some sort of release show in Lancaster though, and I imagine the ale will be flowing! Playing live has been difficult this year as I’ve been living a long way away from the rest of the band and working a job that involves working evenings, so our show at The Flapper in Birmingham on July 30th will actually be our first gig of 2011! But I’m moving jobs in a few weeks, and I’m hoping to be in a position to move back to Lancaster soon, so if all goes to plan so should be able to play live a lot more often before too long. Playing live is by far the most enjoyable aspect of being in a band, so for me personally it’s been something I’ve missed doing a lot these last few months.
N: On the note of live music and gigs, how would you describe the music scene in Lancashire? Are there any bands you’d recommend people to see? Aside from Wolfthorn, obviously.
G: Lancaster always surprised me in that for a small town it has a very large and varied music scene. There are a number of pubs in the city centre that regularly put on live bands, and people in general are very enthusiastic about music. I’m talking music in general here, and not specifically metal. We often see people at our shows that you wouldn’t expect to be into extreme metal, and I’ve always been really impressed by people’s willingness to support local music regardless of genre or style. There’s also a large music scene in nearby Preston that’s worth mentioning too. In terms of bands from the area I’d suggest to others, there are a couple that spring to mind. Firstly, our guitarist Andy would be extremely unhappy if I didn’t use this opportunity to plug his other band, Consecrated Flesh. You owe me a pint if you’re reading this mate! They play a more extreme form of black metal than Wolfthorn, incorporating influences from German thrash bands like Kreator and Sodom. They released a new demo a week or two ago, which is well worth checking out. They’re a band that have come on a lot in the last few years, and are well worth seeing live as well. Their guitar player Will is actually responsible for the recording and mixing of the upcoming Wolfthorn album! And secondly, as a massive fan of traditional Heavy Metal and the NWOBHM sound in particular, I’d highly recommend a local band called Eliminator who are probably my favourite band from the area. Wolfthorn’s first ever gig was opening for them back in 2008, and they’re well worth checking out if you’re a fan of bands like Heavy Load, Gotham City and Sortilege.
N: You mentioned earlier that the upcoming album will be focusing on events and people in British history that helped to shape said history. Is there any reason particular reason for this or is it just one of those things that just happened while writing the songs?
G: Believe it or not, when I started the band I was going for a sort of “grim and frostbitten” vibe and we had songs about Satan and Elizabeth Bathory and stuff like that! It didn’t last long though, as I realised it was totally insincere and unconvincing. History is something that I’ve always been interested in, and I spend a lot of time reading about ancient Britian, so it just seemed the logical thing for me to write about. So we kept some of the riffs and stuff from the original songs, but I totally redid the lyrics with this new theme in mind, and it seemed to work a lot better. I think lyrics always come out better when the subject matter is something their author has an interest in or feels strongly about, and that certainly proved to be the case for us as the quality of our lyrics improved dramatically! I think with this kind of music the lyrics are extremely important, so I’m pleased to be able to stand behind my lyrics rather than have to perform some contrite, cliched black metal nonsense that I feel no connection to. But I suppose you and our other listeners will be the judge of whether or not that early change of direction worked!
N: At least you broke away from the cliché that a lot of black metal bands get trapped in. Throughout the time Wolfthorn has been around, have you or any of the other members been accused of ridiculous antics like “goat sacrifice” or “devil worship” based on the music? Or is it something you fear will happen when the band gets bigger?
G: Haha, not yet I’m afraid! We’ve had a few strange emails from nutjobs in America accusing us of being a racist band and ridiculous things like that, but that happens to a lot of bands that sing about heritage and history these days. It’s a shame that some people jump to conclusions like that, but you just have to ignore it really. As a band we have absolutely no political or religious agendas, and while our lyrics do refer to “British” heritage and identity, this is not intened to convey a sense of superiority over other people, racially or otherwise. We are proud of where we come from, and write songs about periods of history we are interested in, but that’s as far as it goes. Criticism like that is not something that’s ever really bothered me though, if anything I’m pleased that people in America have heard our music, even if they totally missed the point of it! There’s no such thing as bad publicity I guess. Haters gonna hate!
N: It’s good to see that there are bands that keep politics and religion out of the music. Speaking of other countries, are there any countries you’d like to tour in the future when the band has a larger, more international fan base?
G: It’s not something I’ve ever thought about to be honest. If that were ever to happen, I’ve never left Europe in my life so I suppose it’d be cool to visit places like the USA and Canada or Australia and New Zealand. It’d be really cool to play in places like Germany or Scandinavia where Heavy Metal music is still a mainstream force. But that’s all in the future if it ever happens at all, for now I’d quite like play the rest our own country! We’ve never played in the south of England, and we haven’t done Wales, Ireland or Scotland yet either, so we’ll probably try and tick those places off before we start leading the jetset lifestyle!
N: Just a few more questions now. In terms of your writing, aside from history, what influences you the most?
G: A variety of things really. History, along with mythology and folk legends, as you mentioned, is definitely the main influence lyrically. There are a few exceptions, however. Twilight in Valinor, from our EP, is about JRR Tolkien’s epic The Silmarillion. I’m quite proud of the lyrics in that one as I managed to rhyme two Elvish words! Aside from that, there are a few songs on the new album inspired by nature and the countryside, as well as one track that touches on some more personal themes. Musically, I have a wide array of influences. When the band formed the main influence was definitely Dissection, and they continue to be a big inspiration, although I always wanted to incorporate things like guitar solos and twin lead sections from the more traditional Heavy Metal that makes up the majority of my record collection. Whilst writing the second release, I was listening to a lot of Swedish death metal, particularly the record Silence of the World Beyond by A Canorous Quintet, so expect to hear that influence come through more strongly when you hear the album! Most people describe Wolfthorn as black metal with NWOBHM influences, which I suppose makes sense as that is essentially the sound I’m trying to create with my songwriting.
N: They’re certainly some impressive influences. Once again, thank you for your time. Final question now… Aside from the next album release and the Birmingham gig, what else is the band planning for the rest of the year? Any underground festivals or gigs elsewhere in the UK?
G: We’re playing a show in Lancaster on October 28th, which we’re quite looking forward to as it will be our first hometown show since November of the previous year. I would imagine that there will be some kind of release party whenever the album comes out too, which would also be in Lancaster as well. Other than that, there’s nothing else planned, but we’re always open to offers, so if anyone reading this likes our stuff and wants to book us to play their town, don’t hesitate to get in touch! Cheers for talking to me anyway mate, it’s been fun. Best of luck with your website, and hopefully I’ll see you at a Wolfthorn show in the future and we can have a pint together!
- Wolfthorn – Echoes Of A Forgotten Past EP  (valkyrianmusic.com)
- Consecrated Flesh – From The Dying Earth  (valkyrianmusic.com)
- Celtachor – In The Halls Of Our Ancient Fathers  (valkyrianmusic.com)
- Sulphur – Thorns In Existence  (valkyrianmusic.com)