Ipswich natives Stahlsarg are surely an outfit to keep an eye on. The group’s sound, a blend of Black- and Death Metal, is the equivalent of a deadly cocktail for the neck muscles. Having opened for Mayhem and played at the Bloodstock Festival, the members of Stahlsarg are keen on expanding their fanbase outside of the UK. This Halloween, Stahlsarg returns to Ghent for a second concert in under a year. Reason enough for a little chat with guitarist and founding member Krieg (ex-Eastern Front).
Stahlsarg is a relatively new band. Would you mind summarizing what the group is all about?
We are a Blackened Death Metal band that writes songs from a subjective point of view. Our lyrics primarily focus on WWII campaigns and battles. We are a non political band and have a keen interest in history. Stahlsarg tries to present events that have taken place as accurately as possible. We hope that those interested in our music would feel inspired to do some further reading into our lyrics and history.
Stahlsarg originates from Ipswich, Suffolk. It is a rather rural area, the local football team is e.g. nicknamed “the tractor boys”. It seems a rather unlikely location to form an Extreme Metal band. What are your thoughts on this? Besides “Cradle of Filth”, which ‘local’ bands should we know?
All band members are based in Ipswich. It is located seventy miles north east of London and thus placed well for gigging across the UK. We don’t tend to get any big bands travel and play here due to the lack of a vivid local scene. Other bands from here you should know (and probably know about) are Extreme Noise Terror and Devilment. Devilment is Dani Filth’s (Cradle of Filth vocalist, pv) latest band and has just signed to Nuclear Blast.
Being part of an up-and-coming band, what has been the high point so far?
Playing Bloodstock Festival in August was a high point. Having been able to play this festival in such an early part of our band career is amazing. Another highlight equally as exciting as this was being contacted by Hellhammer of Mayhem. He asked us directly for one of our shirts. Initially we thought it couldn’t be him so did a bit of research and sent a shirt to him anyway. As it turned out, Endstille’s vocalist Zingultus sent me a message asking if I had seen the new Mayhem photoshoot which was being used in all the European magazines. Prior to his message, I had not. I was staggered and delighted that in this photoshoot, Hellhammer was actually wearing our shirt. It blew us away that he felt proud enough to wear our shirt during the shoot. Off the back of this, we ended up supporting Mayhem on their only UK gig back in May in London. This turned out to be our first UK live gig. We learnt of the Mayhem show and the Bloodstock Festival within days of each other. We hadn’t even played any UK dates up till that point and so Bloodstock was actually our second UK gig. Needless to say, that week we were on cloud nine!
Stahlsarg’s lyrics tend to focus on WWII, a subject you are fascinated with. Is there a certain battle which speaks most to your imagination?
If I had to choose one, it would be the battle of Stalingrad. It stands in the forefront as being important to me as it was the turning point in the battle between the Germans and the Russians. There are a lot of films and books about this campaign which I have watched read. I regularly visit historical sites. We are going to one at the end of this week on our way to the No compromise Festival in La Louvière, we are visiting “la Coupole”. In May 2013, I visited Moscow for its Victory Day Parade. It was a great time to go as all the residents of the city and old veterans attended the event, with military vehicle parades and classical concerts. We will be visiting Berlin later in September. It will be my fourth visit to the city. So even though I’ve named Stalingrad, it does not prevent me from researching and visiting other areas of different campaigns and battles.
I have noticed you have a soft spot for classical music. Care to explain?
Yes, I do enjoy listening to classical music. My favorite composers are Beethoven, Bruckner and Shostakovich. I even have recordings on CD which were recorded during WWII and have been remastered and restored. Listening to music recorded during the war allows me to place myself back in time when we are thinking about the writing process of Stahlsarg’s music. I enjoy the dynamics of the genre and we try to implement this in our music.
Stahlsarg’s mixture of Black- and Death Metal sounds as heavy as it gets. Imagine being forced to make a choice between both genres, which one would you pick?
Great question! If I had to choose one, it would be Black Metal. This is purely due to the amount of emotion. In my opinion, Black Metal is more atmospheric and this is very important for Stahlsarg’s song writing. I have always liked Death Metal, so I wanted to have the best of both worlds.
Do you care for the spiritual aspect of Black Metal? Is the corpse-paint solely a gimmick or does it have a deeper meaning to you?
I respect the spiritual element of Black Metal for its history and for the bands that still work within it. However, I do not have any connection to it. Trying to write in that style to me would feel like I was doing it an injustice. Stahlsarg use corpse paint because we are proud to have been influenced by original Black Metal bands. In no way do we want to copy them as such, though. We wear the corpse-paint to enhance our music and to highlight its emotion and power. We also use only white and blue lights and lots of smoke when playing live to help create a bleak and dramatic atmosphere. In my opinion, I feel that we can’t write about brutal campaigns and suffering if we appear like a musician who has just walked off the street. This is why the image and show-element are very important to us. It also immerses the audience in the performance.
Last time I picked up a copy of Metal Hammer UK, I was stunned by the disproportional focus on fashionable sub-genres. How do you experience Stahlsarg’s coverage in the specialized media?
The wonderful thing about the internet is that now there are people such as yourself to give our music a voice. It helps exposing it in an environment with many bands in a market place of diminishing sales volumes. Print magazines are obviously under the pressure of advertisers to feature more signed bands. Their labels are in turn more likely to spend money on advertising in these magazines. Luckily for us, some ‘zines’ are prepared to do some research and expose bands like Stahlsarg. They help us get our name out there. If anything, it is a better accolade to have someone come to you wanting to do an interview because they are genuinely interested in your band instead of looking for you to spend money their way.
Earlier this year, Stahlsarg played a gig in Ghent. It was a short yet intense performance in support of “Handful of Hate” and “Excruciate 666”. This Halloween, Stahlsarg returns to Ghent for a headliner-show. What are your impressions of the city? Have you had the chance to do some sightseeing?
Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to do some sightseeing other than the inside of the venue as per most gigs. However, I do hope this time around we may get the opportunity. I was impressed that the gig we played back in February in Ghent was opposite Saint Bavo Cathedral. The cathedral houses the Ghent altarpiece by Van Eyck. My brother-in-law had an extras role as an American GI in the film “Monuments Men”. The film shows the altarpiece and its return. I felt this had a special connection to myself and our return to Ghent in October.
Thank you very much for this interview!
This Saturday (September 6), Stahlsarg will be playing the No Compromise Metal Festin La Louvière. On Halloween (October 31), Stahlsarg returns to Ghent for a headliner show at the Kinky Star (free admission!).