By Rafi Yovell
I’ve already talked extensively about Arallu (review and interview), one of Israel’s two greatest black metal bands. It’s about damn time the other gets some time in the spotlight. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Winterhorde, the unparalleled kings of melodic black metal.
Since their inception in 2001, Winterhorde have released three awesome albums: Nebula, Underwatermoon, and Maestro, with their fourth record, Neptunian, currently in the works. Not much has been revealed about Neptunian yet, so I went down to one of Winterhorde‘s rehearsals to interview the band about their upcoming album, and ask a few questions regarding their previous work, as well.
What kind of sound should we expect from Neptunian?
Sascha “Celestial” Latman (bass): It’ll likely be a combination of Underwatermoon and Maestro, with many new elements added to the mix, of course. We’ve never made the same album twice, and seek to ensure each release has its own sound, concept, and ideas.
Omer “Noir” Naveh (guitar): Our next album’s gonna have a lot of variety, from long songs to short songs, to calm, quiet parts to heavy, dark parts. That kind of diversity is also present in our last two albums, but it’ll be even more apparent in Neptunian.
Your previous two releases, Underwatermoon and Maestro, are story-driven concept albums. Will Neptunian be one, as well?
Celestial: No, each song will have its own topic. There’s a general theme that encompasses the album, but it’s not based on a story-driven concept.
Well, then what will Neptunian‘s central theme be?
Celestial: We’d like to dedicate this album to those who’ve achieved the impossible. Like for example, living on Neptune, which is impossible, but someday people might be able to achieve it. So we’re dedicating Neptunian to those who would accomplish that, and for us, as well. Making an album like this in these trying times should be impossible, but here we are, at it again, so it’s dedicated to us too.
Do you have an estimate of when the album will come out?
Celestial: If all goes well, around mid-to-late 2023.
Earlier this year, you released a single, “The Greatest Plague of Earth.” I’ve read that you considered including it as a song on Neptunian at some point, but in the end chose not to. If that’s true, why didn’t it make the cut?
Celestial: “The Greatest Plague of Earth” deals with a completely different topic from Neptunian. In the song, we criticize humanity, so it has no place in the album we’re making. It’s a great song and we really like it, we’ll be performing it a lot, but it doesn’t fit in with Neptunian. It’s a one-time creation and should remain that way.
A recurring theme within your last two albums is the insanity that can occur as a result of an unhinged, desperate person feeling as though they have absolutely nothing to lose in life. Where did the inspiration for such a topic come from?
Celestial: From our lives. Each one of us has their own personal life and job. For example, I work at an operating room, which as you can imagine, gives a lot of inspiration.
Zed Destructive (vocalist): Our ideas come from what we absorb around us. In life, you run into all kinds of scenarios and things that stick with you, and afterwards, you have to dissect them in some way. Our way is by externalizing them through music, lyrics, and compositions.
When you look back at your first album, Nebula, how do you feel?
Zed Destructive: Personally, I really like that album. It represents a time of innocence for me, when we were young, starry-eyed, and wanted to make black metal. I think Nebula was great for its time, but our skills, perception of music, and mastery developed so much since then. Even so, I’m still very attached to Nebula‘s content and atmosphere. I see it as a good album.
Celestial: I’m very critical towards myself and what I write. I think during the making of Nebula, we were still too influenced by the bands that were around back then. We didn’t come up with our own style yet. It wasn’t until Maestro, or even a bit in Underwatermoon, when we truly felt like Winterhorde instead of just the bands that influenced us.
Zed Destructive: I think Underwatermoon was the beginning of the path we decided to take. Maestro was when our style fully solidified, and how we see the band today.
Besides black metal, classical music, and prog, are there any other genres you’re thinking of combining with your music in the future?
Celstial: We try to avoid categorizing our music. Anything good, anything with a nice melody or harmony influences us, and that enriches us. There aren’t any metal bands today that influence me. I’m in my 40’s now; metal bands influenced me twenty years ago, but not anymore. Nowadays, metal bands don’t affect my music, especially not contemporary ones. I get my influence more from film soundtracks, classical music, and maybe blues, that’s what mainly influences me now. I’m not crossing off any influence from metal, it’s just that I think the genre isn’t evolving anymore; it’s seeing somewhat of a regression. Everyone’s going back to styles from the 70’s and 80’s, metal isn’t seeing much progression now.
Zed Destructive: It reached a peak of some sorts, to a point where there’s nowhere to go or innovate now. Maybe someday someone might invent a device that produces a new type of sound, but as of now, you can either stay in the present or go back to the past. You can try going forward, but it’s hard for me to imagine coming up with anything new at the moment. We try our best to make music in our own style and take it to a place that speaks to us. We’re not necessarily influenced by any one kind of music. Rather, we just go with what works for us. When writing a song, you have to see whether or not it clicks with you; if you’re honest with yourself and that’s your truth, it works. To me, that’s the idea behind writing.
What are your thoughts on the local black metal scene here in Israel?
Zed Destructive: To be honest, I think there’s a lack of black metal bands here. A few are active, but there isn’t a large mass of bands you can name one after another. I wish there were more of them. I remember in the 90’s there were so many black metal bands here, you could go out and spend a whole night under a black metal sky. There’s a lack of bands now, and I hope the local scene produces more quality groups within the genre.
Underwatermoon takes place in 19th century Spain, and as for Maestro, it takes place in Satan’s orchestra in Prague, of all places. Where did you get those ideas from?
Celestial: That’s what’s been on my mind when I wrote those stories. Underwatermoon was inspired by our tour in 2006 when we were in Spain; we traveled by the Atlantic Ocean, which entranced us. We were at the Port of Vigo, where the album takes place. That’s where Underwatermoon‘s story came from. As for Maestro, that’s just how I felt at the time. I really love Prague and I’m quite attached to that city, that whole story and hallucination we created out of it. It’s our own fictional story written by us, and isn’t based on reality. But sadly, some pretty similar stories happen in real life, too.
If you could give one point of advice to any band wanting to enter the metal scene, what would it be?
Zed Destructive: Practice, practice, practice. Learn how to play properly, use quality equipment, and don’t settle for less. Once you settle for lesser gear, you’re settling for a lesser sound, and also for less enjoyment. When you have a really good guitar, it’ll call to you and you’ll want to play it more. If you’ve got a simple guitar, you might not be eager to play on it as often or get that surge of enjoyment. Besides the importance of gear, there’s also seriousness and the determination to reach your goals, and never
giving up on yourself or any of your bandmates. If you want to do it right, you have to stay on the path.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned ever since you started playing together?
Celestial: We learned that we need to be a family and listen to and love one another. There’s no room for ego within a band.
Zed Destructive: There’s also mutual respect, which is a crucial principle, and loyalty to the path the band takes. It’s important for a band, because if someone isn’t loyal to the path and lacks respect for their friends in it, they’ll have a very hard time making any progress. You really need to learn how to cast your ego aside, listen to your bandmates and cooperate. If, for example, a song needs something, you need to go with what the song needs, even if it means not going with what you want. Being in a band with a bunch of skilled musicians who are serious about their craft is very different from making music alone at home. You need to be open-minded and let the chips fall where they may.
Noir: We’re more strongly connected now than when we made Maestro. We know each other better. I’m sure that closeness will be reflected in Neptunian‘s music.
Celestial: Each of us is more involved in the process compared to previous albums. Everyone here is contributing something, and I believe as a result, Neptunian will be better than everything else we’ve released.
In a sea of metal bands that try to mimic those that came before them, it’s easy to lose sight of acts that genuinely strive to build their own unique identity. Thankfully, Winterhorde, among a small handful of other acts, prove that the genre still has the potential to progress forward.
I’m really looking forward to Neptunian, and can’t wait to see where else Winterhorde take their music.