Can you give us an update on what has been going on with the band since the recording of the new album?
Well, it has been a very turbulent time. We recorded the album in May this year and since that there was no time to rest actually. Firstly, we needed to find a new record company. There were certain - more or less extensive - proceedings and we finally signed with MASSACRE RECORDS. Secondly, we had to find a suitable solution how to present the album live on stage. That’s no problem in general. This time, we were forced to add several backing tracks. If you, as a band, decide to use them you have to practice playing much more precisely. Therefore, we did a lot of rehearsals in the very past. Thirdly, we had to fix the entire artwork and layout for the album which also required several weeks of work. Right now, we are in the planning of 2018th touring and festival season. You see, there were many things to do.
In November you have a new album coming out, how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording and also how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past.
First of all, you can expect a really broad variety of songs in terms of speed and style. Since the very beginnings of our band, we never limited ourselves. Let me explain. Each of us grew up with different sorts of metal. When I started listening to Metal, I was influenced by bands like W.A.S.P., Judas Priest or Manowar. Later on, I discovered Thrash and Death Metal up to the point Black Metal hit my ear and soul. Vorst and our previous bass guitar player Recke started in a very similar way. Serpent very early used to listen to bands of the second wave of Black Metal like Marduk, Setherial or Dark Funeral. We all were touched by the Black Magic those bands banned on record. On “Bloodline Divine” you can explore all the different influences we came in touch with over the years. Nonetheless, we developed our skills in writing and arranging. In somehow we rediscovered our own roots. I don‘t know, either accidental or unconscious we created an album that’s much more like the older records. There is more atmosphere and mystic in it. Of course, you can find high speed drumming and harsh riffing but there are lots of parts in it that one might find more epic like later Keep of Kalessin records.
This is the first album since 2011, can you tell us a little bit more about what has been going on during that time span?
Well, I bed you wouldn’t have asked for it. However, we faced certain problems over the passing years. On one hand, we had some trouble with our record company. Unfortunately, our last label became insolvent shortly after the release. That meant, we got almost instantly no more promotion for the album from that point on. It seemed like the record hasn’t been released at all. Even friends and fans were surprised when they noticed that we released an album back in 2011. On the other hand, we lost two brothers in arms and needed to involve an amount of new musicians just to replace them again in order to find a suitable lineup, finally. But hey, here we are.
What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the newer music?
Let’s go through it song by song. “Via Dolorosa” is no new topic in general. It’s the bloody path the Nazarene had to walk on his way to Golgatha where nails and crows are about to fulfill their duties. The next song is “Sinnocence”. Here we are faced with the fate of a young lady who is very much addicted to love and blood. A sort of vampire if you want…..”Corpsebride” is a little nasty piece of prose…two lovers united in lust and death. At least one of both to be honest. The track “Oblivion” deals with memories and thoughts towards the Great Fallen One whereas “Seelensammler” is about several warriors and soldiers who, just to keep alive during battle, sold their soul literally to the collector of souls. What else? Ok, the story of “Bloodline Divine” is about a female infant whose life long journey is to end the divine regency and to establish a new one. “S.T.U.K.A.” is really about what the title suggests. It’s about how German bombers attacked England during WW II and the horror they spread from British perspective. Last but not least we might talk about “Phoenix” and “Apostate” that are two songs about how to resist and to fight hypocrisy, false friendship and how to rise from the ashes again.
What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Grabak'?
When we started the band back in 1995 we combined the forces of two bands namely FFF and Hecatomb. We decided to take the name of the largest serpent lurking underneath the roots of Yggdrasil. It’s name is Grabak or Grey Back. The best inspiration is the sort of subtle destructive work under the surface.
What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?
There were a few I would say. Party San Open Air and Satan’s Convention were really impressive. You are faced with hundreds of fans and meet like-minded artists from all over Europe. That was overwhelming. But honestly, I really like smaller club shows and single gigs. You are closed to your crowd and you know they are here because of you. This is sort of a very special bond once you have realized that. Our shows are very pure and honest. We very much set on a more physical presence than on visual gimmicks like pyro effects, torches or candles. The blood we use is natural and the sweat you see is ours. Pure dedication to music…
Do you have any touring or show plans once the new album is released?
We are confirmed for several single shows, some festivals and we are on a mini tour in April. Hopefully, there will be more.
On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your newer music by fans of black metal?
I don’t really know what period of time you are asking for. When we talk about the last decade, since we developed our more extreme black metal so to speak, most of the feedback has been rather positive. In 2007 we reached a new level of popularity on base of “Agash Daeva”. Of course we have lost several fans due to the fact that they refused to follow our musical and lyrical way to express. Nonetheless, we obviously hit a stylistic nerve that time because a large amount of new followers built a second fundament to our fan base. Today the world is much more connected via social networks and internet at all. On one hand you can reach your fans very much faster. On the other hand, you as a band have become much more transparent or available. That’s sometimes slightly frightening because you don’t have a real privacy when every step you take is obvious. Anyway, that’s the prize you have to pay. If you talk about the latest album I can hardly comment or estimate something because there is no feedback until now. Due to the fact, that “Bloodline Divine” will be released in November there are no reactions up to that point - neither positive nor negative.
What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that some of the band members are a part of?
We are very much focused on GRABAK these days. Only B.S. participates in his own Death Metal project as drummer. That’s keeping him in shape. All of the other projects somehow rest for the moment and I feel really comfortable with it.
Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
In my opinion, we continue the way we started back in 2007. We play extreme music for an extreme crowd and last but not least for ourselves. That’s what we want…neither limits nor rules. Good luck, with MASSACRE RECORDS we found a very potent partner to promote our songs and I really hope we might continue this partnership. One really good thing is we don’t have to proof our music in terms of such a ridiculous discourse about true and main stream Black Metal or sellout. Fuck yeah, when you are that long part of an idea or scene any query about this is obsolete. We are still poisoned from the serpent’s kiss and we’ll keep the black flame burning within us. This music is not only a part our life, it determines it. Maybe, we are going spread our plagues more often live on stage. We’ll see.
What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your newer music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Well, I somehow answered the question before. We as band have a wide spectrum of music the either consciously or unconsciously influence our own songs. There are influences coming from Heavy Metal, Death and Black Metal. Some of us really stick to Metal, only. Others are more, let’s say, open-minded concerning different musical genres. You want to know what bands we currently listen to. That really differs and depends on our mood. We all like Marduk and their development over decades. For me they represent, what BM should sound like today. Apart from some tiny aspects in their discography, they never stagnated. Sad but true, other bands from the older days of 90s BM did. I don’t want to name them. Sometimes I feel really uncomfortable when I see my “old Gods” fading to shadows of their past. Whatsoever, there are some more band I really like for what they do. For example Carach Angren who released some very interesting records. Sure, in the mean time they might call it Horror Metal and no longer Black Metal as it has been rooted so long. But the arrangements and song structures are astonishing and have a really catchy appeal. The latest record I bought has been the new Belphegor album. There are no really surprising songs on it but you will always get the highest possible standard they are able to create. In terms of riffing and drumming..state of the art. Unbelievable enough, that they can present their material almost perfect live on stage. What else? I really like one of Germany’s, in my mind, most sophisticated but underrated bands – namely Lunar Aurora. I rarely found a band whose music caught my attention that much - in terms of atmosphere and true dedication towards the dark realms surrounding us. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, they decided to part ways.
Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Well, I’d like to express my gratitude to all the comrades we were allowed to march with over the years – artists and fans likewise. In days, when honor and blood sworn bonds become weakened we might raise our cups and horns and renew the oath to worship the darkest spirits and to embrace the mortal agony we might be faced with in future…until we rise from the ashes.