By Adam Smyth
Thulcandra are a Swedish blackened death metal band clearly growing in confidence and stature. After a rough start that would probably spell the end for a number of weaker bands, they have built on the success of their 2010 debut album Fallen Angel’s Dominion and have now released second album Under a Frozen Sun earlier this month.
Inspired by the music of Dissection and Unanimated, the band was formed in 2003 by Steffen Kummerer and Juergen Zintz. By the following year they had released a demo and were set to record their first album. Tragedy struck Thulcandra however, when Zintz fell prey to his personal demons and committed suicide in early 2005. Needless to say, the band was no more at this point. After some time passed, guitarist Kummerer reworked the songs and was joined by twin brothers Tobias and Sebastian Ludwig on bass and guitar (of German pagan metal band Helfahrt) and Seraph (of Dark Fortress) who stepped in as a session drummer. Fallen Angel’s Dominion made a lot of impact in the death metal scene when it came out last year.
Adam Smyth talked to the Sebastian Ludwig to find out how new album Under a Frozen Sun has been received so far and how far Thulcandra feel they have come as a band.
Adam Smyth: Your new album Under a Frozen Sun has been out for a while now. How has the album been received so far and what have Thulcandra been up to since its release?
Sebastian Ludwig: The response to the album has been really good so far, on occasion it was almost overwhelming. It seems that both fans and press enjoy the album quite a lot, which of course is rather satisfying for us.
AS: Your last album Fallen Angel’s Dominion was widely regarded as a big success in the blackened death metal genre. When making this new album was it stressful to try and beat your previous effort?
SL: This kind of stress might be buried deep within the unconsciousness, but if you look at it realistically, the only thing that matters is to write music that we enjoy and that we are satisfied with. If we are not satisfied with a song, we try to work on it until it feels right, or we kick it. Usually this kind of self control guarantees that a new record has at least the same quality as the previous one. Besides, you are permanently growing as a songwriter, so I´m not really concerned about getting worse.
AS: You’ve worked again with producer V. Santura (Obscura, Tryptykon) for this album. What was the working relationship like with him this time around?
SL: V. Santura’s Woodshed Studio is the PERFECT place for us, and it’s certainly not a coincidence that that all our other bands record their albums there, too. His technical skills are beyond questioning, which becomes very obvious by just listening to his various productions, but he simply is a brilliant producer as well, whose dedication and focus help bands working with him to extend their limits and to reach an ultimate result
AS: Listening to the album some of the guitar work on it seems very challenging and intricate, especially for the song Gates of Eden. Were many of the songs which are very ambitious technically all written prior to recording or was it a case of listening to it and reappraising it when you were in the studio?
SL: Technically all the songs are written when we enter the studio. But then again, we do like to experiment with the songs, add some more guitar harmonies, try some different leads, sometimes we even rearrange complete parts of the songs, so they are still growing during a recording session. Gates of Eden is indeed a very good example for this process, since the brilliant lead guitar at the end of the song was added rather late by Peter Huss from Shining, and its exactly this lead guitar that gives the song its final touch.
AS: As a band you are clearly not afraid to wear your hearts on your sleeve and be proud of your influences. Some critics have suggested though that the Dissection influence in your work is something you should distance yourself from. How do you respond to this? Is this hard to not be influenced by such an important band in black metal?
SL: We have already clearly stated that Thulcandra is a tribute band foremost, so we certainly won’t distance ourselves from our influences . Thing is, after Fallen Angels Dominion, some people considered Dissection to be our only influence. But with the new record released, I hope people will realize that our goal is to pay homage to the whole Swedish Death and Black Metal scene of the early 90ies, to bands like Unanimated, Sacramentum, Vinterland, Eucharist and the likes. It obviously still is not our goal to write original music. If people don’t like this approach, I certainly don’t have a problem with it. No one forces you to listen to our stuff.
AS: You guys are obviously well versed in a lot of earlier blackened bands but do you also draw influence from music that is outside of the metal genre? Any guilty pleasures?
SL: I freely admit that I do listen to all kinds of music nowadays, I’m not any more stuck to listening only to metal as it used to be in my earlier years. In a way, I believe that all the music you hear has an indirect influence on your own work, but a direct influence from non-metal music for Thulcandra… that probably doesn’t exist.
AS: In terms of the performance aspect, are the new songs much harder to reproduce live? What songs stand out as really stretching your abilities?
SL: To be perfectly honest, if we´d try to perform the songs 1:1, we most likely would need four guitarists on stage. But we write live versions of the songs, in which we are slightly cutting back on some details, and that works quite well. Performing live and working in a studio environment are two very different worlds: On stage, the most important thing is the energy that your songs and your performance convey to the audience. However, I do practice quite a lot before we play live.
AS:You’ve seen Juergen Zintz commit (founding member) suicide, the band breaking up, reformation, new members recruited, a successful first album and most recently the release of your follow up effort. Overall, what is it like to be in Thulcandra right now? Does it feel like its been a hellride at times?
SL: Well, we are certainly not the band with the easiest past ever, and no one can say what the future will bring, but I must say that right now things are very easy with Thulcandra. We are proud of our releases, we have a good time playing together and that is the way it should be.
AS: What are Thulcandra’s future plans and ambitions?
SL: They are rather simple: Continue writing good music, play a couple of good shows, and that´s basically it. If possible, we´d like to go on tour again, but we will see how this works out.
Under a Frozen Sun is out now via Napalm Records