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INTERVIEW: Jacco de Wijs & Rowan Roodbaert – Heidevolk

Hailing from the Netherlands, HEIDEVOLK have stormed onto the folk metal scene and taken their place in no time at all. HEIDEVOLK have toured throughout Europe since they began their metal journey in 2002. With clean vocals and anthemic songs, they captured the heart and soul of folk metal from all over Europe. Aiming to hit the ground running in the new year, the band are set to release their sixth studio effort, Vuur van Verzet in January and continue bringing their folk metal sound to the masses. We spoke with vocalist Jacco de Wijs and bassist Rowan Roodbaert to get an insight into their brand new record, alongside discussing the band’s influences and where they stand on the classification of the term folk metal.

So, you are set to release your new album Vuur van Verzet in January next year. What can fans expect from the upcoming album?

Rowan: What the listener can expect is a freshened up mix of older and a new HEIDEVOLK sound. An album that thematically will be more like Batavi, but with the added growth and richness that HEIDEVOLK brings since Velua. Vuur van Verzet is an album that encompasses epic scenes about the Germanic tribes after the fall of the Roman Empire, in a quest for new grounds and rediscovery of their strengths and bravery. The music is tailored to the thematics and will bring these stories in a bombastic yet raw way.

It’s been three years since your last album, Velua. How was the band progressed in that time?

Rowan: A sincere investment is songwriting, group dynamics and style development. A band cannot stand still but must progress. HEIDEVOLK went through quite a line-up change since Velua but the core members kept the spirit alive and tirelessly worked on new music while the line-up change brought new blood, and with that new insights, influences and capabilities. Although two of the guitarists and a vocalist changed, HEIDEVOLK will remain its original sound in that it didn’t change intention, bombast, rawness and power. We did add some new challenges for ourselves though, in extended use of folk instruments and even a 24 piece all-male choir!

Vuur van Verzet will be your sixth full-length record. How do you feel this new offering compares to your back catalogue?

Rowan: We tend to go back and forth a bit between recalling historic time periods and the more folkloristic tales from our common ancestry. Since Velua was more of the latter, this album is more of the other kind. We like to switch between the two and find overlaps where possible, and although the switching might not be deliberate, this is what came out of it. You’ll hear 11 songs full of fire, ranging from fast riffing to epic choirs to intricate vocal passages and folky tunes.

So what was the writing process for Vuur van Verzet like? The riffs and drums are hard hitting and work extremely well together, were they the first parts to be refined and recorded?

Jacco: HEIDEVOLK is a riff and groove oriented band which means the basis, the foundation has to be correct before we start to build melody and fill it in. So correct, those parts are the first to be written and recorded. As for songwriting, technically speaking this album was written entirely by Rowan, who laid down the basis for the whole album, every song. When time came to go into pre-production, we all had the chance to add in our own personal input.

What were the most enjoyable songs to record/what are your favourites?

Jacco: For me, personally, maybe Drink op de nacht, for the reason that we got to make a right raucous as background noise for the song. Acting all drunk and rambling was a nice change from the more serious singing. A close second for me would be Gungnir, for its lyric and more introspective approach, which I in particular like doing.

Looking to the concepts and messages that are explored on the new album, what sort of themes and messages does Vuur van Verzet explore?

Rowan: It’s hugely about finding yourself after having been overshadowed by some sort of suppressor. Finding truth in yourself and finding the strength to see it through to the end, no matter the odds. At least that is what I get out of it. The beauty of lyrics, and music in general, is that one can fit his or her own interpretation to it, regardless of what (or even if) the meaning by the artist was originally.

Were there any concepts you wanted to integrate into the album, but didn’t fit for the overall theme?

Jacco: Not that I am aware of, since the entire album was written, more or less as a concept album, by Rowan. Although I know that he always has more ideas than will fit an album so there might be some left.

Many other bands in the folk metal genre take mythology and icons into account with their writing, rather than personal experience as in other genres, where does the inspiration for Heidevolk’s lyrical topics come from?

Rowan: HEIDEVOLK draws its inspiration from themes such as legend, myth, nature and history though this is just the vehicle in which things like personal experiences and actual dilemmas are conveyed. For example: resistance, revolt, migrations…do you see any parallel to nowadays?

So how do you feel about modern folk metal, and has it influenced more or less than where it
was in the past?

Jacco: I think the term folk metal is, as many a “label”, quite restricting. Yes, we do use folk instruments as well as folkloric themes, but that doesn’t fully describe what HEIDEVOLK does. Even the use of our native language, Dutch, is no qualifier that what we do is strictly folk metal. We are glad to use the term though, albeit loosely, for it makes things easier to describe sometimes.

Where do you think the downfalls of folk metal are, and how do you see them being improved?

Rowan: It is easy to fall in to repetition, I reckon. Once you’ve done a couple of albums, it is in a way inevitable that some aspects become recognisable, or akin to a previous song or album, but the goal is to never copy yourself, or anyone else in that regard, blindly and without progression.

Where do you think folk metal stands in regard to other genres and the heavier music scene in general?

Rowan: We, as in folk metal or pagan metal, tend to form a band of brothers, a brotherhood if you will. We support and unite each other a lot, which I think is a big part of the fun. Competition is not as much of a thing, in comparison to other music genres, I think. We rather band together and let the genre grow as a result. We’ve seen folk metal develop as a genre over the last 15 years, it started off big and many bands joined the scene. Last few years it has been consolidating, leaving the bands that survived in a position of recognition and a clear staple in the billings of almost every festival.

What are your touring plans for the next year? Any favourite venues or countries to visit?

Rowan: We start of 2018 with a tour around Europe for a couple of weeks, as part of the folk metal Superstars “travelling festival” as I like to call it. After that, there will be summer festivals of course and another tour somewhere in the second half of the year. In the meantime we try to bring our new album and accompanying roadshow to as many a place as we can, all over the world. Any definite plans will be revealed as soon as we can. Personal favourites of mine? Scandinavia, Canada, the Balkans, Japan. And the UK of course.

To close, we will offer you the floor. Do you have anything to say to the readers of Distorted Sound?

Jacco: Dear readers, hereby we would like to invite you to come see us, on tour, on one of the many festivals we will attend, or anywhere we will roam and enjoy what we think is the greatest thing in the world to share: enjoyable music, partying and meet-ups with as many of you as we can! And of course buy our stuff. you know, to keep us going. See you all very soon!

Vuur van Verzet is set for release on January 12th via Napalm Records.

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