Recordings were finished in December with some additional vocal tracking. Since then we have been pretty busy with mixing/mastering the album. Gerileme, with whom we already worked in the past (Drudensang, Unryht), took care of the technical aspects of this process. In parallel Gråin, who also runs Bavarian Black Arts (Layouts, Recordings, Mixing, Mastering), developed and ultimately finished the layout of “Alptraumgänger”, based on the front cover designed by Misanthropic-Art.
In January we played the last gig with our long-time guitarist Skilnir who left Schrat in February. Alptraumgänger is the last recording he participated in. Pestmeister Tairach of Pestnebel joined Schrat as session bass player, and Azag switched to guitar, so we had our live lineup completed pretty fast. It feels like there is a lot of change going on in recent time, but this also brings in some fresh momentum. So in general positive developments from our perspective.
2.You have a new album coming out during the end of April, 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?
The new songs certainly have a different atmosphere and sounding compared to our previous recording(s). The song “Beschwörung…” from Schattenwahn comes closest to the new stuff, though it is rather slow in comparison. The development, which took actually over 5 years, felt pretty natural to us. The new compositions have a more straight forward and aggressive attitude with strong links to the waves of 80’s and 90’s black metal. From a musicians perspective the level of playing has also increased considerably, which probably comes by the nature of things.
3.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the newer music?
The lyrical concept of Schrat has not changed too much since Schattenwahn. Lead topics are misanthropy, melancholy, annihilation, isolation, spirituality and the all including embrace of nature. Inspiration comes from what we experience in everydays life and what touches us emotionally. It’s hard to narrow it further down, since the lyrics do not follow strict rules, but more a general concept. The topics mentioned before are either directly or metaphorically elaborated.
4.I know that the band was named after a nature spirit from German myths, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in this subject?
We feel a strong connection to nature in general. To us it’s like the complete opposite concept compared to today’s world: chaotic, yet beautifully rough and most importantly, balanced, from time to time free of human scum. We perceive this as a kind of utopia; it touches us on a very deep and primal level. Everyone who ever was out for a plain walk in the woods, probably experienced the liberating and relaxing effect this simple action has on one’s mind. Imagine the potential that lies in deeper interaction with the ancient spirits…
On a second thought, there is also significant importance when it comes to regional connection. Going back to the forest walk example it feels always different when you walk in new/strange regions compared to your homeland. Though other areas may appeal beautiful and inspiring as well, heart and mind are touched the deepest at home.
Taking this as the start point when thinking of a suitable name for the band, we looked for a term that provides the link to nature as topic as well as the regional aspect. That’s how we ended up with Schrat.
5.The cover artwork on the new album has the look of an ancient pagan ritual, can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork?
Actually, the story behind this is rather short. The artwork basically is an alteration of Schrat performing live, combining visual elements we use live as well as key elements of the lyrical concept.
The artwork shows the summoning of THE Schrat, the Alptraumgänger.
6.In the studio the band works as a duo, are you open to working with a full band in the studio again in the future?
For “Alptraumgänger” the drums were recorded by session drummers (Nefastus and Grond in this case). Same goes for Artefakt and Schattenwahn, for which the drums were recorded by Seraph. All other stuff was recorded by Gråin, Dragg and Skilnir, except some minor things like backing vocals. How we will handle recordings in the future is not entirely clear at this moment, but we are certainly open to work with a full band. It depends on musical perspectives and dedication of each individual. As always, we will do what feels most suitable to us to achieve our ideal musical conception. Working as a duo supported by session musicians as needed, will still be the basic set up if things mentioned before do not apply.
7.What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?
When thinking back the shows in Olten/Switzerland and Barther Metal Open Air/Germany were probably one of the best we had so far.
When playing live the overall atmosphere is most important to us. We don’t limit this to the musical aspect, but also extend to the visual expression as well as other sensorial impressions. Therefore our stage concept comprises usage of candles (fire), rune trunks, skulls, bones, blood and incenses. Stage acting then naturally comes as true expression of the subconscious mind. Establishing the connection to these personal depths is the overall goal when performing live.
8.Do you have any touring or show plans once the new album is released?
We are working with our label on some touring plans but nothing bigger fixed, yet. We will play some shows with our label mates Streams of Blood and Halphas in Germany over the next months until beginning/middle of 2019. We have some more shows scheduled for this year, amongst them the Under the Black Sun festival near Berlin. More will definitely come!
9.The new album is coming out on 'Folter Records', how would you compare working with them to the other labels you have been a part of in the past?
Jörg has a very professional and dedicated way of working. The cooperation feels very energetic and prolific, just the right thing for us. The labels we have worked with in the past cannot be compared to Folter at all. No bad feelings or words to them, but this is just a different level.
In all aspects you can clearly see dedication and belief in what both sides are doing - perfect match for us.
10.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of black metal?
Overall, the music of Schrat gets very good feedback, probably not only because people like what they hear but also since band and music project a coherent image. There is nothing artificial about how we do things and that is the key element for this kind of music. Black Metal is and never was only about music, but also about ideology, presentation and integrity! It seems like many of the newer bands tend to not understand this strong link and try to generate bastard like abominations of extreme music and safe space attitude. Fuck them and fuck the people who embrace this as Black Metal! You obviously did not understand a damn thing..
11.What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that both of the band members are a part of?
We both are part of two more projects. In Drudensang, Gråin is acting as the main composer of their music whereas Dragg supports live with bass play and backing vocals.
Last year we founded a new band with Dark Fortress’ former vocalist Azathoth called Gráb. Gráb goes in a total different musical direction, though we consider black metal still being the fundamental musical base. For this year composing and recording of the first album is planned.
12.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
We will certainly proceed on the path we took on “Alptraumgänger” and develop this style further. Nothing more to say.
13.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?
Gråin: The songwriting and recording sound of albums from the 90s of bands like Gorgoroth (Under the Sign of Hell, Pentagram, Antichrist), Satyricon (Dark Medieval Times, The Shadowthrone, Nemesis Divina) or Tsjuder (Kill for Satan, Demonic Possession, Desert Northern Hell) have had a formative impact on me. Raw sound and a mangy recording which should neither be too bad or good in combination with simply ignored playing errors constitutes Black Metal sounding for me. The music needs to rumble and should not even remotely sound like superficial chart music.
Dragg: In terms of influences I would definitely name Endstilles former vocalist Iblis. Never saw a singer with such aggressiveness and presence on stage again, truly inspiring! Musically, bands like Urgehal, Krypt, Mayhem, Marduk, Horna but also Ascension, Helrunar (to name newer ones), influenced me. Looking up my current playlist, I listen a lot to Evilfeasts current output “Elegies of the Stellar Wind”, Riivaus - Lyöden Taudein ja Kirouksin and Perdition Winds - Transcendent Emptiness to name a few.
14.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Death to all!