Solemnity: Logo

German heavy horror metalllers of Solemnity have just released another fantastic full lenght album titled "Shockwave Of Steel". Allright, so what, you may ask... Let me tell you something. This album is one of the very fuckin' best Heavy Metal releases I lately heard! The 80s are back!

Hail Sven! Is your axe still sharp? Ready to chop off few non-believers' heads? Your new album "Shockwave Of Steel" is still hot - why have you decided to publish it on your own label?

Because we were cheated in the past, did not receive any promotion by our label and were completely ripped off! With "King Of Dreams" we even had to make compromises on the production to our label so it was no situation I could live with. After the split to our former members which never took the music that serious as I do it was a natural thing for me to build a kind of label that gives us exactly all we need. Most of all it´s creative freedom in a 100% and that was always for me the reason to make music. Just for me, for the band and not for some kind of company who only wants to rip us off.

Cover artwork... I would say that this is some lost masterpiece of the mighty Ken Kelly, am I right?

No, you're not. I asked Ken of course to do this first as we had his artworks for the first two albums, but he was simply too expensive by far. We wanted this time a custom-made artwork and I guess his prices are still stuck somewhere in the 80s when he received big checks by Atlantic Records, Manowar or Kiss. So we were looking for someone who could make this vision true, I mean painting exactly the style of Ken Kelly and doing it for a reasonable price. My found this Hungarian artist called Ferenc Regös and he is just brillant!!! I made some rough paintings and showed him what he should do and we were all overwhelmed by it. For those who tell me by the way that this artwork is copied by Manowar: Look what Ken was drawing for Manowar first! Ken copied the "Destroyer" cover of Kiss and it ended up in Manowar's "Fighting The World". We did somethig in the same way!

You have almost all new line up on this album. Why? Weren't the original members interested in being part of your Heavy Metal horror machine?

Several reasons: Solemnity is a band, no solo-project! In fact I was always writing the music, the lyrics, the show, doing the booking and everything else. It was like one motor in a car with four brakes that were acting all the time. It did work out for two albums, but with the times we argued too much. Our bassplayer wanted to give it a more commercial direction and I always had problems with his point of views as we never really loved each other. Marcel, our leadguitar-player married and he became a father, therefore he totally quit from the music and finally there was Christian. He once met a girl, cut his 50cm long hair and from one day to ther other he listened only to hip-hop. Sometimes I think I'm living in a madhouse, or at least I recruit my musicians right there? Finally Adrian and me were left to continue, but Adrian quit the band in the meantime as well or let's better say this time we kicked him out. He had a new girlfriend, was engaged with her for two weeks and they married after four weeks. Suddenly around the tsunami in Asia he disappeared for 12 weeks and not even his parents knew where he was. When he came back after that time he said he didn't want to continue with music... strange, but that's O.K. Our new line-up is simply great and the best I ever worked with!!! Ralf, our bass player is simply a genius and one of the best bass-players I have ever seen and he has exactly the same influences as me, which makes it great writing songs together with him. Kuba is very young, but unbelieveable talented on his guitar. There's more than 10 years difference between us and though he listens sometimes to very strange stuff his riffs are totally 80s metal. Our new drummer is called "Holger The Spider" and he's a real animal! It seems like this line-up will work for a long long time as the chemistry is perfect as it never been before and ALL are part of the horror-show.

I had no occasion to hear your 2nd album, but I know well the debut, which is for me much different than "Shockwave Of Steel". Will you agree with me? I would say that the debut had many speed / thrash metal elements, and the new album is more heavy metal oriented... Was the 2nd (middle) album kind of bridge between these 2 styles?

I guess so maybe. I only see that this time we have much better musicians then the albums before so we could do a lot more high-end riffing. I only told the world we are doing Heavy Horror Metal so noone can blame us for musical experiments. We had on our second album a 10 minute doom song and this style was not at all on the debut. If I like to write a speed song, I do it, if I like to write a thrash song, I do it, If I think it's time for a real ballad we will do it in the future. You can find all styles from the tradional Heavy Metal genre and I think that is the big difference between Solemnity and other bands. We don't have ten times the same song with a different refrain on one album as each song is a real individual, but I like this a lot as it gets not boring after a while and you can still discover new elements after the hundredst time you listend to it.

Were you the executive producer and the engineer of this masterpiece? I'm truly impressed after listening to this album, and I'm not sure who should be hailed, as I just own the promo copy.

Sorry for that, I even got you on the thanxlist in the finished product. Yes, I wrote the songs about 80%, recorded it, produced it, doing the layout and everything again like in the albums before. It's not like I have to do this, but as long I don't have somebody in the band who does all these jobs better it is up to me to bring it to perfection.

I know that there was a vinyl version of this album, but it's already sold out! Well, it looks like I'm too slow... What I'm missing?

We released "Shockwave Of Steel" as a special collectors edition in different colours. Black, Bloodred, Royalblue, Vomitgreen & Atomicyellow. I´m myself a real vinyl-lover so I made this dream come true to release the album as vinyl and as it is almost sold out I guess most of our fans like it a lot! I made a special Direct Metal Mastering for it so it blows your speakers like the best Lps in the 80s did!

On the second album was a very special guest: Steve Sylvester of Death SS. How does it happen, that the master himself is a guest on your release?

I asked him! I know Steve for a long time and though we are not in a regular contact I just called him on the phone and asked him if he could imagine to sing a song on our album. He loved the idea as I told him this song is a ten minute epic called "Vampire's Dance" so he booked the studio in Italy the other day to record his parts. I love Death SS for ages and since 1993 I travel almost each time down to Italy to get at least one of their shows per tour, so I met Steve several times personally and he knew it would be something very special for me if he is willing to help us out with his appearance.

I know that you are a studio freak. What album or band did you lately produce? Do you have own studio?

I got a small Pro Tools studio at home where I do all the recordings and most of the mixes. For drum-recordings I always go to a friend who owns a big studio where is enough place to record a good drumkit. I don't believe in triggers or drum-computers like all other producers do it these days. That makes the mixes more transparent yes, but it takes the power and the energy out of the song and I simply hate music without balls! I'm not living from the music so I produce majorly Solemnity & Ligeia in my own studio, but comes time I will hopefully can do some day.

What you do for a living? Having metal job or not really?

It's a very unmetal job, but I have to live of something. Probably I'm the only longhaired guy in this business and you have to be a little schizophrenic if you live to lifes. My job is nevertheless a little secret I will keep.

I know you have pretty nice heavy metal family: your wife is Dani of Ligeia. Do you spend nights on listening to rare records or composing new tracks, instead of, you know what, haha...

Yeah, we are married for over one year and know each other for a long time. When I met her she was majorly into typical German metal like Running Wild, Kreator, Grave Digger and stuff like this, but in all those nights she really learned to love (not only me?), but as well all the great metal perls that have never risen from the dusty ground. I'd say we almost love the same kind of music, except for me listening as well to lots of progressive rock from the 70s till today as well that she does not like that much as I do, but I'm older than her so that's O.K. I compose a lot at nighttimes indeed using a guitar or keyboard and putting it all together on my PC, so yes, a lot of nights go by with composing. Unfortunately I always have to wait till the next morning to record some basic vocal tracks as Dani needs to sleep...

I found some female backing vocals on our CD. Is this Dani?

Dani did sing the part of the angel in "Red Monk" and of course it was her being killed screaming in "Chainsaw Lullaby". She always complains about being the victim, so I gave her this time as well the part in "Red Monk" so she has to sing as well a little.

Do you think that the common tour of Ligeia & Solemnity would be possible?

Maybe, maybe not. We have played so many times together back in 2000/2001 that it lasts for eternity I think sometimes. Last year we even opened for Ligeia as a special guest, the crowd not knowing that it was Solemnity as it was the first time ever we played without any show or gimmicks. Very strange to stand on a stage without costume, but the people cheered us up anyway. A guy I even told me it was cool from us to cover some Solemnity tracks? It was the first show with the new line-up so he didn't know the other guys and me without make-up is a real horrorshow!!!

Do you have any new bands on eye? Did you discover any interesting acts lately?

I discover permanently new great bands. Sometimes they are already 20 years in the business, but at least for me they are new. I recently bought some great albums from South America (Argentina/Brazil/Chile/Mexicio...) and there were sooo fuckin cool bands under them. Jason, Megaton, Patan, Acero, Boanerges, Inquisicion, etc. Wowww, you rarely hear music like this in Europe these days anymore. There are as well so many great bands in Eastern Europe that I love for ages. Most of them are stars in their homecountries, but not too many people know them outside their homecountry. That was one of the reasons why we covered a song by the Russian band Aria on our latest album. They are really one of my favourites so I felt we have to do this. Maybe in the future we will do something from Poland (Kat, Turbo), Czechia (Kreyson) or Hungary (Pokolgèp, Ossian). Let's see what the future holds. By the way, you should all check this newcomer from Finland called Teräsbetoni. The German press hates them, but I love them!!! They even got a deal with Warner Music and do music like early Manowar with lyrics in Finish language. Really great stuff!!!

Solemnity is also well known as the horror metal road show... Are you planning to release a DVD maybe?

Some day I love to. We got the problem that the rights on our songs from the first two albums are still with Remedy Records so we have to put this on a shelf till we got those back. It's a shame as we hold some of the best effects in the whole business and a DVD would be a perfect thing to show the people what crazy stuff we do.

Don't you think it's a time for the live album? Do you own some unreleased demo tracks maybe? There could be a nice bonus stuff for a release like that...

We once have done a five track mini-CD which was recorded live. That was a dat recording from our first show ever. We played "Solemnity", "Chalice Of Blood" & "Walpurgisnight" in completely different versions with some horrible mistakes!!! Moreover we covered "In union we stand" by Overkill in an awful version plus two never released songs at all. These are nice, but have not been worth to be on the CD. I got tons of those low quality songs which I kicked away some day as I didn't like the hookline anymore or whatever. Still today, I wrote 10 songs and throw away 9 of them. I like only great stuff to be on an album so I guess my quality standard is very high for my own songs. The problem with the live-album are as well the rights on the first two albums, but I'd prefer to do a DVD anyway as the visual aspect is very important at a Solemnity-show. We have some great studio-tracks left from our "Shockwave Of Steel" session plus some nice live-recordings of new songs. I guess we will put out a kind of EP next to make a bridge to the next longplayer.

I heard something about planned "A Tribute to NWoBHM" and "A Tribute to East European Metal" albums... Hmmm, just wonder who could be responsible for it... Anyway, which tracks would you like to place there? And forget about the Aria cover song which you already recorded for the "Shockwave Of Steel"! haha...

Very difficult question. As I made the other guys in my band very big Pokolgèp fans I think it would be something from them as Hungarian is as well far not that complicated for me as Russian, Polish or Czechian. For the NWoBHM if have to go through my collection first and that will take months...

Hey man, tell me one thing... What's so special in heavy metal that you live for it?!

Heavy Metal music is a statement of depression, anger and of being pushed around. For me it is the elixir to fight life back, it's the source of power and brings the light to life again. There's no other music where you can combine ballads, heavy doomy songs, classical peaceful music full of joy, thrashing pieces full of rage, epic choirs full of power, passion, pain, religion, occultism, even politics sometime - all feelings and everything of the entire spectrum you can only find in ONE music – METAL!!! Why should I be satisfied with something below this?

How do you see future of obscure true heavy metal, and bands like Solemnity, in let's say 10 years from now?

That's a difficult one! On the one hand I'm sure that I will still make music then, but on the other hand I don't know if there are still people out there that like this kind of music. The problem is really that the media in all countries give the young people no chance to discover this wonderful music. You can hear all day long on MTV the same old bullshit by Britney & Co. and even when it comes to rock or metal people think that crap like Kid Rock, Korn, Oasis or HIM have to do something with real metal as the media tells these lies all day and all night to their viewers. In a way I see metal as we know it is a dying species, but I still hope for a brighter future!!! The worst thing could be like in the Slyvester Stallone movie "Demolition Man" that all people are listening only to the jingles from commercials from TV. Maybe it was a funny thing for the writer of the movie ten years ago, but if I turn on the TV I see ring-tone charts these days for the sounds of mobile-phones. That really scares me!!!

I know that you are crazy heavy metal maniac and collector... Which bands from my country you know and mostly like? Have you heard the 80s metal gods such as Lord Vader, Open Fire (yes, the band with the name like your song from the debut album...) or Voo Doo? Do you know young underground heroes like Monstrum, Hellfire or Crystal Viper?

From the bands you mentioned I know of course Voo Doo & Open Fire. I think the German band Metal Inquisitor even covered a track by Open Fire? I've never heard of Lord Vader unfortunately, but I will keep my eyes open. Those young new talents I know by now only from their names but I'm looking forward to hear their releases. From the early times I like definetely Turbo, Ceti & Kat the most. Great music and great musicians!!! Moreover I like a lot the albums of Stos, Destroyers, Ira, Lady Pank, Dragon and Non Iron. I even got some obscure demotapes from Polish bands such Taranis & Cryptic Tales which were not bad either. Of course everybody knows Vader or Behemoth, but that's a different league as I only like the very early stuff of Vader when they sounded like Slayer on a trip back to hell!

I think that's all I wanted to ask for... Last words are yours my friend! Hail & Kill!


Sven The Axe.

Interview done by Bart Gabriel in August 2005.