Little by little, the alpine republic of Austria is developing into a country of Metal, every day new bands are rising from the apparently very fertile soil. However, it´s not just recently that the country of Mozart and Andreas Gabalier has become a pledge of high quality Metal, as the well-established Thrashers Darkfall can attest. With their new album “Road to Redemption”, the Styrians lay down a slab of Thrash Metal worthy of international recognition. STALKER spoke with singer and mastermind Thomas “Spiwi” Spiwak.
Hey Spiwi, thank you for your time. How are you and Darkfall doing at the moment, 2 months after the release?
Hey Bernd, many thanks for taking interest in Darkfall! We´re doing very well at the moment. The first release shows have been completed and recently we played another show opening for Exhumed. The reactions to the new album have been positive, both with international press and with the fans, so it could be a lot worse right now.
It´s also an album that you can really be proud of. Tell us a bit about it: which direction were you aiming for, musically and lyrically, on Road To Redemption?
Musically I would place us in the thrash/death metal realm, although the possible variety that creates shouldn´t be neglected. The lyrics on Road To Redemption are based around the concept of life and death, and each text describes a self-contained variation on dying. The album title refers to a street as a metaphor for life, and the redemption being death. The cover was designed by Michael Freitag, and is a visual representation of this concept, and the intro to the album sets the artwork to music.
Death as redemption, that seems pretty gloomy. Did you bring personal experiences into the process, or is everything on there to be considered more general?
In the end, we all have to deal with death at some point. Directly or indirectly, it´s a part of our lives. And this was the basis of the texts, either in historical events, current world affairs, fictitious stories or personal experiences. Sooner or later, whether we like it or not, we will all face death, as redemption or not. Road To Redemption is intended to serve as a soundtrack for this encounter.
You mentioned that you place yourselves in the space between thrash and death metal, with which I agree. Could you tell the readers who don´t know you a little about the history of Darkfall, and who the people behind Road To Redemption´s sound are?
We formed in 1995, and already we were placing ourselves in the thrash/death corner, although earlier the thrash components were more dominant, such as on the first release “Winter Leaves”. On our second work “Dimensions Beyond” the music became more melodic and we started integrating keyboard parts into the songs. The attempts of both these CDs were then perfected on third album ´Firebreed´, and the band finally enjoyed international success and a wider audience. Unfortunately, due to differing opinions we were unable to capitalise on this success, and the band ended up breaking up a short while later. A few members formed a new band, and I continued under the Darkfall banner.
After the lineup was complete again, the single “Phoenix Rising” followed, which was less cheerful and straight-forward than “Firebreed”. Later the boxset “Through Fiery Times And Beyond” came out, which allowed us to tour across Europe again and lay a strong foundation for the next release. Unfortunately things didn´t quite go to plan and the lineup disappeared again one by one. At the beginning of 2012 we were finally complete again and started work on “Road To Redemption”. For recording we recruited Peter Fritz from Tonstudio 66 and for mastering Andy Classen from Stage One Studio. Both did a first-rate job on our work, and we hope to work with them again in the future.
Speaking of the future, what will that bring you? Which concerts and tours are coming up, and will you possibly be working on new material again?
At the beginning of August we´ll be playing at the Metal Invasion Open Air in Austria, everything else is still in progress. But we will definitely be playing more and hopefully that´ll result in an extensive tour. But unfortunately nothing so far is official.
You touched upon a new festival in Austria, and were for many years participants in the legendary Kaltenbach Open Air. How do you see the development of the European as well as the Austrian festival and concert scene?
Festivalwise it goes up and down, and in the last few years we´ve seen a few big festivals close down, like Kaltenbach Open Air, Rock The Lake or Rocky Mountains. Whether and how the scene continues remains to be seen. In place of these festivals, smaller ones like Eine In Teich or Darkness Over Paradise have sprung up, and this development is definitely positive. There are also a few big festivals like Nova Rock or See Rock, that seem to be going well and have become internationally established. Concertwise everything seems to be going on in Vienna and only occasionally does a band stray to other Austrian cities on their tour. Exceptions prove the rule, but I personally think that there´s definitely an oversupply in Vienna. Decreasing audience numbers are surely an indication of this.
Aren´t the decreasing attendance numbers also the reason why tours don´t reach other smaller cities as well? We have recently experienced that “fans” or festival-goers rather prefer to drink at the camping ground than attend concerts. How do you perceive this as a musician, a fan and veteran in the scene, is this a new development?
Not playing every tiny village is understandable. But would you also call cities like Graz, with a population of 250,000, small by Austrian standards? It´s the second-biggest city in Austria! Proportionally there´s been very little in the last few years in comparison to Vienna. And when at the same time you have several metal concerts in a week, it´s simply too much for the average fan. But well, supply meets demand and vice versa. As for the fact that people prefer to get wasted while camping at festivals than to see bands, that´s also nothing new, experienced organisers have long since been noticing this trend. It´s a shame for the bands, but it´s the peoples´ own choice how they spend their time at the festival. And for some the camping area party is more important than checking the bands out. That´s completely fine and understandable in my view.
One can see you´re speaking from years of experience. Is it possible that apathy or indifference has crept in, or does the same fire burn in you as at the beginning of your music career?
No, certainly not indifference, music is just too important to me for that. But a certain element of disillusion and powerlessness against various developments in any case. After 20 years in the business I have experienced a lot as an organiser and musician, and many of these experiences I could have done without. But that´s how this business goes and this development does not stop at the metal scene in and of itself. There´s much to gain from being a fan, however it´s a very different story when you look behind the scenes. But as long as there are true idealists, the basic principles of metal won´t ever die.
A nice final statement, which has little left to be added. Could you tell me a little bit about your nicer experiences? What has been for you the biggest/best moment in Darkfall´s history? What´s been your favorite show to play and watch? What do you still wish to do?
Since the history of Darkfall has shifted so much over the years, there have been many peaks as well as lows, and the release of “Road To Redemption” is definitely one of the peaks. It´s always a fantastic moment when you finally hold the physical copy of your new album in your hands. This feeling after months of hard work is one of a kind. That can only be topped by several experiences onstage, and the one that sticks out for me is our show at Kaltenbach Open Air in 2007, not just because we released this show later on DVD, but the connection between crowd and band there was something special. And in recent years the release show in Graz was a definite highlight. The fans´ support after all this waiting was amazing. Thanks to them!
As a spectator my absolute favorite show was Manowar at Earthshaker Festival in 2005. All previous and current members on one stage was pretty awesome. And what I still want to do? Musical world domination with Darkfall. And when that fails, at least a couple more albums and several cool tours.
The last words belong as always to you and your fans, what´s the word from Spiwi and Darkfall?
Many thanks first of all for the interview and interest in Darkfall. Check out our new album Road To Redemption, for those inclined there should be something of interest for you, and maybe we´ll see you at one of our upcoming concerts.
Author: Bernd Krumböck, translation: Mark Brandt, photos Darkfall