THUNDERWAR - interview with Witold
This young band stormed through the underground with no hesitation and quickly became one of the most recognized new acts from the Polish death metal scene… and all that thanks to only one, self financed EP "The Birth of Thunder" and some seriously awesome and important gigs, which were lately performed. Yes, Thunderwar is a name to remember. At the moment they’re working on the debut full length album, but this conversation is still mainly dedicated to the debut recording and beginnings of the band. So read it, enjoy it and support Thunderwar, as I am quite certain that with the upcoming album they’ll get some serious recognition. Witold answered my questions!
Hi there Witold. Ha, I must admit for me this is quite unusual way to do interviews, but I hope everything will go well. I wonder first though, how many interviews have you guys answered recently? I mean Thunderwar all of a sudden became quite well know band, not only in Poland, but in the world underground! And everything seems to go so quick with you - you appeared out of nowhere with self financed MCD and without a help of a label you managed to get it promoted decently and get recognized. I'm sure you must be quite happy with how the things are going, right? Have you expected this to happen?
Hi! It's true. Thunderwar has made significant progress since the release of the EP. I admit I'm really happy with it, but I was sure it would have a positive response in both Poland and abroad. We've really put a great deal of work into the releasing of this material (and money as well haha). Finally I believe that the investment returns to us every day. Since then, we've received a lot of really cool offers and we're getting them still.
Does it put any sort of pressure on you, when composing the new album? I mean, the great and positive feedback on "The Birth of Thunder" also creates the expectations in maniacs, who will want to hear more and even more deadly stuff. How do you cope with these expectations? Or maybe you simply do not bother and just play what you have in the guts... and the effects will come later...
With releasing ”The Birth of Thunder”, we've raised the standards, but I know that my band is developing all the time and we're not straying from the taken course. We've received a lot of positive feedback, and played big shows, but we're not resting on laurels but still pushing forward. It's only the beginning of our journey. While creating music, I try not to be under any pressure or constraints. I believe it would have a harmful effect on the truthfulness and quality of our music. I want everything to come out naturally.
Were you surprised with that positive feedback you received for "The Birth of Thunder”? I mean, you're a total newcomer, with really young guys in the lineup and already your first official release gets such a good reception. It must be a great satisfaction for you and stimulation for more! It surely met your expectations! What opinions have stack in your mind the most? Do they come together also with gigs offers and contract offers from the labels?
As I've said before, I was prepared for the positive feedback. Having heard lots of Heavy Metal, I have far too much of an ear for it, and criticism for my own work, to release some shit material. It's really nice to read the enthusiastic opinions about our MCD, whether it's from the critics or just posted on forums and in comments. It reinforces our conviction that we're heading the right direction. One thing that was certainly a big distinction for us, was playing shows with Amon Amarth, Obituary and Carcass in September. It was a great experience enabling us to see how this world functions ”behind the scenes”. As far as the contracts are concerned – we've had a couple of offers, but we'd rather not search for a label until we've released our complete record.
I mentioned the age of all of you and I really base it on your photos only, where you look like the early 20's. Well, tell me then, how have you all discovered the lethal music? What were your first encounters with it and more so, since the music of Thunderwar is rather old styled, then what pointed you into the old school direction? Was it just natural thing? Or maybe you don't agree and don't see your music as old school? Which classic albums would you say have the biggest influence on you?
I was lucky that in my home noone listened to shitty music. It was really thanks to my parents that I got to know bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, or Metallica (this still being before the time of the internet haha). When I started maturing, I felt the hunger for extreme music. The breakthrough for me, was seeing the music video for Kreator's ”Betrayer”, which literally blew me away. This was what I was looking for! Later it was like an avalanche... I lay my paws on the records of Morbid Angel, Sodom, Unleashed, Death and Immortal. When it comes to the old school spirit in our music – we refer to the roots of the genre, but we don't want to do historical re-enactment. We believe that music in those times was more honest and natural. I completely don't understand those plastic-dripping, modern death metal bands. Dave Brockie, in one of his interviews, once said ”I believe that today's metal sounds like a load of instruments thrown down a staircase”. I agree comple
tely. The digitalised sound and overdone editing, serve metal no good. Of course, I don't want to generalise, because I only refer to the trend which, I hope, is at its end. As far as I can see, there is a tendency to return to the live and natural sound. The proof of this, for example, is the recent work of Tribulation. As for the albums which have had the greatest influence on me – the milestone is Dissection's ”Storm of the Light's Bane”... it's just perfect in every detail. One of the best albums in Heavy Metal history. Next comes Bathory's ”Blood Fire Death”, Iron Maiden's ”Somewhere in Time”, ”Agent Orange” by Sodom, Judas Priest's ”Painkiller”, ”Symbolic” by Death... I could keep naming without end, since every single one of these records continuously inspires me.
You mentioned the newest Tribulation LP. I see it, as well as Morbid Chron and Miasmal latest efforts, as some sort of new quality within this rotten old styled niche. I even foresee that they may create some sort of new sound and trend... How did you like these new LPs? And also some other newer old school death metal bands, many of which are just utterly killer... Any favourites there? More so, you mentioned such Iron Maiden and Death... and I bet that for you, as a guitarists, the guitar work in these bands, and also of such James Murphy, is very influential...
Tribulation's latest album is definitely the one I like the most. A magical sound, the music composed in a very original way and a great atmosphere. You can also hear the black metal influences, like that of Watain or Dissection, which I consider a great advantage. In spite of the whole thing sounding very oldschool, I believe the final effect on the record to be very fresh. When it comes to the new bands, which have caught my attention, I would highly recommend the Swedish Degial, and The Dead Goats, from our home country. The first is a fusion between the first productions of Morbid Angel and Possessed. The second one, a homage to the Swedish bands like Entombed and Dismember. Of course James Murphy is a great inspiration for me, just like the majority of the musicians, who appeared in Death. I always liked the way he used the movable bridge. My top choices would also be: Marty Friedman, Dave Suzuki, Jeff Loomis, Paul Gilbert and Yngwie Malmsteen. Since I started playing the guitar I learned the feel / technique from their tutorials. You can say they were the ones who taught me the most haha. Until today, they're still a great inspiration for me.
And what can you say about these gigs you played with Amon Amarth and Obituary. How did they happen? I must say that while I completely don't care about Amon Amarth, then Obituary is a legend, one of the first death metal bands, which I started to listen to back in 1991. So, I bet that also for you it must have been a honour! What were these gigs like and also, did you have a chance to talk to the guys from more known bands? How was the feedback and the whole gig like?
It happened that we were just given an offer to play these concerts. As I said before it was a great honour for us, especially that we only have one single and an EP released. Both shows were really well organised and we had the opportunity to present ourselves in front of a great audience. You know, Obituary and Amon Amarth are really big bands and integrating with fans is really tiring for them.
I myself don't like being a nuisance to anyone, so we only exchanged some casual small talk and I gave some of the members our EP. I think the impressions from our shows were positive since all of the records and T-shirts, we had in our merchandise were sold out.
Back to history of the band… Thunderwar was formed under the name Perun... and I must say that such name would never tell me that we're dealing with a death metal band, as Perun fits some pagan / folk metal bands better hehe. So, I suppose it was a main reason why you have changed the moniker? Do you remember how you guys gathered and formed this band? Who came with initiative?
The main reason for changing the name, was the problem with foreigners pronouncing it right and the fact, that there already are a few bands with that name. We wanted to have a name which is unique and original and finding one was a hard nut to crack. It was a miracle that our present one wasn't taken. When it comes to the band being formed, here, as usual, we have a completely trivial and spontaneous story. I met Madness at some party and the next day he invited me over for Perun's rehearsal, where he was bashing away at „something” with Vit. I quickly realised, that this band might become something more and I brought a song over to their rehearsal, which we later called “Eagle of Glory”. Soon after Olszak joined in, and that's been the lineup since then.
Lyrically there's a song about mythology, another one about the vikings riding over the Lindisfarne... Do I sense that the master Quorthon has influenced you, speaking of the lyrical themes? More so, what is the song "Eagle of Glory" about? Why is this track mentioned as a bonus on the EP?
Of course Bathory and Unleashed has had an influence on the lyrical aspect of Thunderwar's music. Still I'm mainly influenced by Quorthon's music, which you can hear in the title track and the instrumental track called „The Birth of Thunder”. The lyrics on our EP are separate stories about ancient cults and mythologies. The lyrics on our upcoming record, however, will be more consistent and connected to one another. As far as “Eagle of Glory” is concerned... I would like to leave it to the listener's interpretation. The song was placed there as a bonus track, because it had been released and published before, on our first single.
In some way, Thunderwar differs lyrically from the majority of old styled death metal bands... I mean, 98% of them deal with the horror / gore / satanic / occult themes, which is awesome, but the viking or mythological subjects are also fine (vide Unleashed and old Hazael). But were you ever into horror stuff or it is not something what lays in your interest? How did you come up with an idea for such lyrical direction? I suppose that even the artwork for the EP distinguish you a little... Hehe, no zombies, no inverted crosses hehe... Amazing artwork, but not something what I would usually link with old school death metal hehe!
Honestly speaking I had never been attracted to the horror / gore genre. I much more prefer the solemn and epic atmosphere. It's probably because I've been a big fan of classical and film music, since I was a child. However I am very interested in the occult and esotericism, and so the future Thunderwar lyrics will touch upon those themes as well. I'd still like
to stress that Thunderwar is not heading the pagan / viking direction. We've got one such song ant that's enough for now. We'd rather not limit ourselves thematically. The cover artwork is pretty unusual as for this type of genre, but looking at Bolt Thrower and Dismember, you can see that we weren't the first.
Apocalypse is a lyrical theme for many metal bands and it's also popular in many books, movies, starting with such "Terminator" and "Mad Max", ending with "24 Days Later"... Nuclear annihilation, global freeze, the asteroids threat... I personally think that the end may come rather from the outbreak of pestilence, from a lethal virus, which can kill the mankind... Which of these scenarios are likely to happen, in your opinion?
Honestly speaking I'm not worried about the global apocalypse, but the most credible scenario seems to be that our own stupidity will be the cause of our demise. So your vision is very real, since maybe some eggheads have created a mutation of some lethal virus, which can imperceptibly go out of control. We know such stories from the times of the USSR. Still, history shows, that in spite of great calamities (the Black Death epidemic in the 14th c.), humanity has always been able to get back on its feet, and in the aftermath, would become more fit to survive and powerful. For me, the end of the world will come, when I die in a car accident, for instance. We're nothing more but bits of dust, placed somewhere in the void of the universe and our existence is but a moment on the never ending timeline. It's terrifying how little we know about the world.
Since you mentioned that new album is about to be recorded and released soon, give me some more details on it. Firstly, what are the new songs like, when compared to "The Birth of Thunder" EP? Which direction do you think the new material is going? Secondly, where do you plan to record and release it? Do you have many labels interested in Thunderwar?
At the moment we're at the stage of polishing the material. The songs will be more Black Metal, atmospheric and dirty, than the ones on the EP. Of course the old school Death Metal will still be there. We're not straying from the taken course, only making it more radical. No song from „The Birth of Thunder” will be repeated on our full record. We're also slowly beginning to work on the cover. We're entering the Hertz studio on the 14th of October this year, so I think that by December, the CD will be ready to be sent to the record companies. Which label will take us under their wings, and when the premiere will take place – this I cannot tell yet.
What expectations do you have with the new, upcoming album? Is there aim, which you have, something you want to achieve with it or you're just happy to have it released and to know that some maniacs will maybe enjoy the music? I ask this also, cause you know, there are some young bands, which make business plans or other shit and want to be another Behemoth celebrities, behaving like stars, which they will never be... Big ego is a problem of many bands today. What is your view on that?
First of all writing music and playing live is a huge turn-on for me and gives me a great deal of satisfaction. It's really an amazing feeling, when the people at our gigs chant the chorus to “Vimana”, especially that we're a very young band. Our aim is constant development, but without losing the honesty and authenticity. For all the band members, the band means our life. As far as the business plans and pie graphs are concerned, I consider it an act of pure stupidity. I would turn my blind eye on it if the material spoke for itself, but unfortunately that's not the case and never will be. I like Behemoth, especially for their last record, but the guys have achieved their success through hard work and perseverance (10 albums!) and not some fucking pie graphs and idiotic films on YouTube. The Swedes have about four „Behemoths” in every town, and every second one is in Nuclear Blast, Century Media or Metal Blade. The bloated ego is mostly the problem of the Polish bands. Since they cannot attract listeners with their music, the best method is creating an ideology and a soaring ego.
I wonder what do you think about all these sites like bandcamp, where people buy (!!) mp3 files of albums? Call me old fashioned, but I just have no idea why would someone want to pay for mp3, if he can buy the real CD or sometimes even LP for the same price? Where's the point there?!
I don't think there's anything wrong with it. To the contrary. In the western world, people regularly buy records, but here in Poland hardly anyone does it, especially among people my age. Mostly because of their price. I think that those who would firstly like to get acquainted with the music of a certain band, would first like to spend some change and listen to a few songs without leaving the house and waiting for the courier. If they like it, most of them are likely to go to a shop and buy the full album. Here people will just download those files from Torrent, paying nothing to the artist.
While this chat was in translation you managed to perform another important gig, one with Carcass and Polish legends Hazael! Again, congrats for such an awesome achievement. What impression these two old bands made on you? How did you enjoy the whole concert and Thunderwar performance?
It was an incredible experience for me. The moment our band was confirmed for the show, we realised, we were aiming very high, and that playing before an undoubtedly difficult audience, was a big challenge for us. I think we managed quite well. The audience's reception and the sound was amazing, so the gig was excellent. It was a great honour for us to be able to play, on the same stage, with such cult and legendary bands. Hazael is a class in itself, and the gig, which Carcass pulled off, was something I'll remember for a long time. I admit it was definitely one of the best shows I went to and one of the best gigs I had the chance to play.
And my last question is… some of you are or were also members of other bands like Hell Patrol, Bestiality (Vit) and Hexfire (you). What can you say about these bands? You’re in Hexfire, which plays the most annoying music ever created within metal circles – power metal! I never understood the phenomenon of this style and probably will never get infected by it… but I wonder how do you find yourself playing this, so different style of music?
I was recruited to Hexfire when I was sixteen. This was the time I was looking for my own lineup and the lust for playing made me grab onto anything (once I even made my way through some deathcore band, but this I wouldn't even like to admit haha.) The prospect of recording an album with musicians such as Niclas Etelävuori (Amporhis), Novy (Dies Irae,Vader) and Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody of Fire), who made a guest appearance there, was very attractive to me. The CD was released by Nightmare Records. It's hard to talk about a band here, because it was more like a project done by the Liszko brothers. I was just a workman. Hexfire hasn't been existing for a long time, and my story in this lineup ended with laying a few guitar tracks, during the recording session. I believe you got this information from Metal Archives, but the status of the project, has been „split-up”, for the past four years. To sum up, I gained some experience and got to know a few people from the music industry. Still, as you've probably realised yourself, power metal is not my kettle of fish. Bestiality, on the other hand is our drummer's side project and it starts where Blasphemy and Destroyer 666 collide. I highly recommend it to all those lusting for a reeking miasma.
OK, cheers Witold for your time and competing this interview. It took us some time to finish it, but I think the final result is not bad at all. Hope to hear the new album soon, so keep on doing great work! Any words to finish this chat??
Thank you for the devoted time. See you in the future!