This act draws its aesthetics from the extremes – audio fusions of the unmixable genres, there are melodic elements, black metal heaviness, interesting guitar passages and strong Nordic lyrical content. Surtalog is a band that combines what seems difficult to combine, but does it very well. They suddenly make progressive pagan black metal very attractive and we want to know more! And you should too – this is a promising upcoming act, and not just sound-wise, but also with a very powerful live performance. We interviewed Surtalog’s front man Lukas:
So, introduce yourselves, what is Surtalog? Who are the people behind the band, where are you from, what you do, etc.
We are an extreme metal band from Cologne, Germany, consisting of four people: myself on guitar and vocals, Sugras (guitar), Alex (bass) and Nils (drums). Surtalog is the sword of Surtur from Norse mythology, which he uses to spread fire across the worlds at Ragnarök.
What kind of music background do you come from?
None of us has any classical background or took lessons for our respective instruments. We just happened to love metal, picked up an instrument and self-taught ourselves. However, I remember loving to sing my entire life.
How often do you guys meet, rehearse, create together?
We meet once a week to rehearse our songs. Sometimes ideas arise during rehearsals, but the music is mainly written at home. But we do discuss parts or ideas in the rehearsal room.
How big of a part does Surtalog play in your day-to-day lives?
Well, there is always a song in my head, which I´m working on at the moment. When I have some spare time, I also like to go through the songs, let them play in my head and enjoy them. Apart from our rehearsals, we spend time practicing new songs or segments that do not work 100 % yet at home, of course.
What is your history, how did you form the band. How did you decide which way to go?
The band originates from a Folk metal band with a bagpipe, formed back in 2010. But of that line-up, I am the only one still in the band. Over time, the music changed to finally become what it is now. We are playing the current songs in this line-up for about one and a half years now.
Not to label you in any way, but to those who haven’t heard you yet, how would you describe your musical style and sound?
We like to call our style “Progressive Pagan Black Metal”. The base is Black Metal, with lyrics mostly about Norse mythology (“Pagan”). Elements like odd time signatures or complex and often lengthy song structures are added (“Progressive”) to form our sound.
Judging by your logo, you are very dark, scary and ready for battle. How seriously do you take yourselves and this act?
Of course, it´s Black Metal! To be honest: We are people who like to laugh a lot and don´t take ourselves too seriously. However, the music is a very serious thing to us, so we´re kind of playing a role on stage. But we´re not like that in our everyday lives.
What are in your current works and near future plans?
We just recorded our first EP, which is currently being mixed and will be released later this year. Of course we want to promote that record and become better known in the area, Germany and maybe even beyond that (hopefully) by playing live gigs. We are also working on our first full length record already.
You’ve recently played at a festival in Germany… How did it go? How was the audience’s response?
It was a beautiful festival! We played on Friday noon and were very happy to already have quite a number of metalheads in front of the stage. Although our music is pretty extreme and not easy to get into that quickly, the audience enjoyed it. We received a lot of positive feedback after the show.
In the long run, what do you want Surtalog to become and be known for?
We know that we won´t become famous with our kind of niche art and that is not our aim. We want to have fun, and if someone else likes our band, we are very happy. But of course it´s our dream to become well-known in the, let´s call it Progressive Extreme Metal scene, if something like this exists. Maybe we can share the stage with bigger bands in that area.
What makes your band unique and memorable?
It´s the combination of styles mentioned above which you won´t find very often. What a crazy idea to mix a minimalistic type of music such as Black metal with the exact opposite!
Are you actually looking for a label? And if so, what kind of deal would you ideally like to strike?
It´s too early for that, I think. We are putting out our EP by ourselves now, so people who want to listen to some of our work have the opportunity to do so. However, we are going to look for a suitable label, when we have recorded our full length album, to have better distribution possibilities.
In the music scene today, whom would you like to play or work with?
As mentioned above, we would love to play with bigger bands, that also merge progressive elements with extreme metal. To name a few: Ne Obliviscaris, Wintersun, Opeth, Ihsahn, Obscura…
Do you have any live gigs planned?
Right now, we are planning on playing with some fellow Pagan metal bands in Cologne, but we don’t have a fixed date yet.
Who and what are your artistic influences?
Well, it starts with Black metal bands such as Emperor, Windir and a quite a number of German bands as well as Pagan and Folk metal like Equilibrium, Finsterforst or Amon Amarth. The progressive influence comes from Dream Theater and Tool for example, but also the bands mentioned above. Last but not least there is influence from Thrash metal bands, such as Kreator or Metallica, and from time to time also completely different music.
Who writes your lyrics and what are they about?
Lyrics are written by me and mostly deal with Norse mythology and therefore the past, but also contain links to the present time. Social issues and personal feelings are addressed from time to time. One main topic is Ragnarök (the apocalypse in Norse mythology), where all life is destroyed before it can rise again. Thereby, all negative human traits are erased, and sometimes I feel that we could use something like this in our present time.
Any song(s) that are more special and personal to you? If so, please explain…
All songs are somehow very special. If they weren’t we wouldn’t play them. The songs on the EP mainly because they are old and a lot of memories are connected to them, the newer ones because personal feelings and views are expressed with them.
And who composes the music? Is it a band effort or one rules them all?
Just as the lyrics, all music is composed by me. But when I finish a new song, we talk about it and decide to change things together, while everyone can alter his own lines, too.
Does Surtalog have a mission? If so, what is it, what is your message to the audience?
We don´t have something like a statement. But we surely make music for thinking people and that is a very important thing in today´s society: Use your brain!
Are you a concept act?
Well, our first full-length is going to be a concept album, but the whole band is not constricted to one topic. We also don´t put a theme on our live shows like a mass or ritual, as other bands do.
And if right now you had a chance to make a video, what would be it like? And to what song?
We would love to make a music video for the title track of the EP. Us guys standing in a thunderstorm, basically reenacting the first verse’s lyrics. Maybe some guys fighting each other with swords…
Where can we find and get any of your songs?
Currently, you can watch a live video on our Youtube channel. We are definitely going to release the EP not only as CD, but also on Bandcamp and Spotify.
What do your band members like to do outside of the band that contributes to your musicality?
My brother and I play in a second band, which we want to present to public next year.
What are your thoughts on the internet’s role in the music industry today?
Of course, every medal has its two sides. On the one hand, you don´t get money for your music anymore, since Spotify doesn’t pay much and Youtube doesn’t pay at all. On the other hand, you can reach a much wider audience with the internet, which definitely wasn’t possible before. For us as a very small underground band, the latter is absolutely predominant since it’s not our goal to make money.
Are you active on social media, where fans can keep up with your news and plans?
You should visit our Facebook page, where you can get all info on future gigs and other stuff!
What can we do, as your fans and followers, to help and support you?
That’s easy: Come to our gigs and have fun, that’s the most important thing. Maybe also buy a CD or a shirt.
What else would you like to share with us? Please tell.. For example, any interesting stories, omens, funny moments.. ?
Support your local underground bands and venues by going to their shows!
Thank you for your time, and good luck! I’m already looking forward to your tour!
Thanks a lot!
Marina Minkler – journalist Uwe Minkler – translation
Band photos by Wiebke Essert