WORDS: Tim Redman
KETZER have been making serious noise in metal’s underground for over a decade now. With their classic German thrash/black sound gaining a lot of support, however album number three Starless is somewhat a departure of their previous sound. Prior to the record’s release, we caught up with bassist David and drummer Sören to talk about Starless, if the German metal scene has helped the band grow and the trends of modern metal.
Hello there, Tim from Distorted Sound here. KETZER have been around for over a decade now and their brand of Teutonic Black/Thrash has gained them a lot of fans in the underground. The bands third full-length Starless is something of a departure from their previous sounds. What should we expect from the record?
Sören: Hey Tim. You should expect an album free from genre specific boundaries and pre-conceived notions. It is a pure KETZER record nevertheless. In the end people have to make up their own mind and thinking out of the box might help to appreciate Starless.
You’ve recently released the title track Starless as a single. How’s the response to that been?
Sören: The response was a broad mixture of love and hate. People who apparently didn’t even realized we recorded another album (Endzeit Metropolis) after Satan’s Boundaries Unchained were mostly not amused and tried to express that in an often offended and pitiful way. On the other side there was a lot of positive feedback from people appreciating that there are bands which progress while keeping their essence alive.
You should also be congratulated on signing with Metal Blade records for your third release. How did that come about?
David: We recorded a demo version containing four new songs over a year ago which I sent it to Alan from PRIMORDIAL with whom I have been in contact for quite a while and who is working for MB as A&R. He liked it and so things started to get on track.
Judging from the single, the new record will sound significantly different from your previous output. Do you view this change as a natural progression of the KETZER sound?
Sören: The simple answer is yes. We didn’t have a business plan for the record saying it should sound like this or that. We just started jamming in our rehearsal room after we felt it was the right time to write new songs. Most songs on the album are a direct result of jam sessions with everybody in the band bringing in their ideas.
In a similar vein, the first releases lyrics dealt with perhaps more typically satanic Black/Thrash themes while the seconds took a more poetic stance. What can we expect on Starless?
Sören: All songs on Starless are dealing with problems that every person, every human being on this planet knows. With that I mean really existential problems like the fear of growing up, the fear of the future, losing people you love, and so on. We asked ourselves if the mythologies of the world, which originated in times long gone, still have something to do with our modern everyday lives. How are these problems that everyone knows handled within the mythologies of the world? The question is: Can these mythologies still speak to us nowadays? Are there answers to be found? Religion these days is mostly disconnected from any meaning that might have been there once. Believers often follow blindly, without even wanting to understand anything that stands behind it. On the other hand, Science is the only wisdom the rest of the people trust. Maybe we have lost something, a sense to see meaning in things, to see meaning in the stars, in the sun, the trees, in everything.
As Germans you must be aware that your country has a reputation for Teutonic Thrash being at the harsher end of the spectrum. Do you feel that this reputation has benefited or hindered KETZER at all?
Sören: I think it has neither benefited nor hindered us. At least I never felt this way. I don’t know if there are actually people thinking a band should sound a certain way just because they come from a certain country and it would be a bit one-dimensional.
David: Besides the fact that the bands who you are obviously talking about like SODOM, DESTRUCTION, KREATOR, VIOLENT FORCE, IRON ANGEL, EXUMER and so on all released classic albums in the book of German Metal, none of them has been a direct influence when I comes to the sound of KETZER in any way.
Emerging as a band when you did you must be aware there are more ways than ever for bands to get exposure those days. Do you feel that it’s more difficult for new bands to make a mark? Did you find social media was important for you when you first started out?
David: I might be completely wrong here, but I feel like there is a ton of new bands coming along each year so it’s probably not that easy to stand out. But I guess that in the end, quality will always be recognized in one way or the other. It just takes time.
Sören: When we first started out Facebook wasn’t even that big but it soon started to be a medium of representation for bands. I’m not sure how much it helped to spread our music back then, but nowadays I think it can be quite useful like any other social media platform.
Do you feel the modern metal scene is more saturated with similar sounding bands, perhaps as a result of this ease of exposure, and that there is a greater tendency towards trends than in the past as a result?
David: Trends come and go, the exposure of the internet has nothing to do with this. It might speed up the transition from one trend to the other, but believe it or not: There were trends in the 70s, 80s and other periods of time. I also feel like there are a lot of similar sounding bands but that doesn’t really matter since it’s always up the listener which bands will become “classics” and which ones will be forgotten. There is so much great music to discover you just have to be really picky and you’ll find the jewel among all the rocks.
What are the future plans in the KETZER camp then? Can we expect to see tours in support of Starless in 2016?
David: Yes! We just announced a couple of February dates in Germany and the Netherlands where we will play with one of our favourite bands right now: GOLD. After that we’ll do a 10 day European Tour in April alongside PRIMORDIAL and SVARTIDUADI. We already played a couple of new songs over the past few years and we can’t wait to present them to a broader audience in the next few months.
I’ll bring this interview to a close by offering you the floor. Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers of Distorted Sound?
David: Starless is record that is meant to be heard in one of these two situations:
1. While driving down the German Autobahn at full speed with a racoon in the backseat. 2. Looking up into the nightskies, having a beer, a cigarette and maybe a substance of your choice.