Facing the Winter's Wind

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Back in 2009 I was introduced to Germany’s black metal horde, Geist, and their stellar maritime themed album, Galeere. It was a virtually perfect black metal album mixing frosty riffs, atmosphere with confident levels of old school mastery and a modern polish and delivery. However, that album was followed by three years of silence due to some legal issues and some internal band issues resulting in 3 on Geist members leaving the band. However bassist Alboin and drummer Marlek have forged ahead, undergoing a name change and returning with an album that’s every bit as good as Galeere. Alboin was kind enough to visit with me and further explain the turmoil of the the last few years and the superb new vision that is Eïs.

I gather there have been quite a few changes in the Geist/Eïs camp, starting obviously with the band name and the members leaving. Rather than me try to summarize it, tell us what happened with Geist and how Eis came about?

We had been threatened with a lawsuit by some cheesy Alternative Rock outfit from Cologne named Geist. Obviously, the girls feared we would steal them their shoes off the feet or something if we had the same band name.

Being concentrated on making music and not on lawsuits, we decided to change the band’s name and invested into re-releasing our first two albums instead.

And three members leaving nearly one year ago… that’s something I’d not like to stress in public. Nothing to do with the renaming and stuff though. Professionally, I’d say it was… personal and musical differences causing that split. I haven’t been fond of the development the band took during the last few years, and it was about time to change that, even if it was rather late I’ve to admit.

Are there any issues with the former members wanting to keep the Geist name despite the legal issues from the other band?

Not at all, we lost all rights to use that band name to the Colognes back then. Our old members have started a new band by the way, using the material that had been written and recorded back then as the planned new Eïs album.

So in a live setting, who owns the rights to play Geist songs?

Actually everybody has the right to play our songs, you just have to pay a kind of fee for it – in Germany we have a pretty intransparent system of spreading royalties to the original artists of music played in the public, it’s, well… organized by an organization called GEMA. Means we actually never see a single penny for that, but anyhow… what you probably mean is who’ll perform the Geist songs we recorded together, Eis or the other band. Simple question: Eis , as I’ve written all the lyrics and all music for all but two songs since six years, so there’s no discussion about it.

You re-released previous Geist albums Patina and Kainsmal under the new Eïs name, how come Galeere didn’t get a redo? Just because it’s more recent?

Due to various reasons. Galeere has been the first album we did on our label Prophecy Productions, it has been properly recorded at Studio E (a studio well-known in Germany, just like for example Grieghallen in Norway or Sunlight in Sweden) and it is also adorned by a professional layout and stuff. Both Patina and Kainsmal had been recorded and produced by ourselves, and I’ve never really been happy with what we were able to achieve back in 2004 or 2006, also concerning things like artwork and stuff. Both albums had been released on smaller labels (Solistitium Records and Cold Dimensions) and have never been wider spread actually. That’s why, when Prophecy decided to include them into their back catalogue, we took the opportunity to rework them properly, with new guitar tracks—featuring guitars being IN TUNE now [laughs]—and a mixing and mastering at Studio E. Also, both artworks have been overworked as well. The only way to find my inner peace with those releases.

So technically is Wetterkreuz the first Eïs album or the 4th Geist album? Or both?

Huh… both probably. To me, a band name is just a band name. It’s the fourth album we’ve recorded together (or at least Marlek and me), it’s the first album released under the Eïs banner, but it’s a fluent continuation of what we have done before.

All the above stuff aside, there’s no denying that Eïs and the new album are brilliant and certainly sound like Geist, despite the line-up shuffle and name change. Was that the intent all along, or did a name change present an option to change the sound up a bit?

Thanks for the nice words, first of all.

Well, we do have changed the sound a little bit, but more production-wise probably. As I’ve both written Galeere and Wetterkreuz on my own, and think that I do have a certain trademark style of composing and arranging songs, there’s no break between the two albums. Wetterkreuz is much harsher, more stormy and gloomy than Galeere, but that’s it basically. We haven’t been into updating the sound at all.

Galeere had a tangible maritime theme, is there an undercurrent or theme to Wetterkreuz? Ice related? My German isn’t so good.

Wetterkreuz translates to ‘weather cross’s — three bar crosses raised on mountains during the last few centuries, to protect people from bad weather and evil forces. You see, a pretty ancient, alpine, gloomy and superstitious thing after all. The album deals with all alpine related metaphors and (musical) pictures, like barren rocks, cliffs, abysses, snowladen landscapes and stuff like that, just like Galeere deals with maritime themes. All album tracks are related to that somehow and form an album together, but may stand individually for themselves as well.

Like I said, the album is amazing. How good does it feel to put everything behind you and release such a great album?

Thank you very much… the feeling is also amazing, I can tell you. We’ve invested so much time into Wetterkreuz and into rebuilding the band in such a short time span, and it’s good to see we’ve succeeded in that. So… definitely the right decision to split the band and follow our own vision.

Germany has some great if underrated black metal bands—such as Secrets of the Moon, The Ruins of Beverast, Todtgelichter, Fyrnask, Ave Maria, you guys, just to name a few—that never seem to get the acclaim or attention of their Scandinavian peers. Why is that? Does the German scene lack the ‘notoriety’ of the Swedish and Norwegian scenes?

Hard to say… German bands haven’t started with it, so it’s just understandable they never got the attention they may deserve, even if they might be just as good, musically.

Personally I can say that Norwegian (partly Swedish) bands have musically socialized me, that’s why I always cling to their music and am more fascinated by them than by an old German band like Martyrium or whatever. It’s the almost magical aura surrounding these guys… we had to write letters and look up in printed magazines to know anything about them back in the nineties, they just didn’t tour Germany every three weeks. That’s the big difference, even if these musicians laugh their asses off about what they did back then.

Apart from that, Germany is not the most successful country when it comes to musical originality and trendsetting. We mostly (badly) imitate US and English trends when it comes to pop music and surely Scandinavian stuff when it comes to black metal. Mostly, that is. We do have originators of thrash metal for example, like Sodom, Kreator or Destruction.

The bands you’ve mentioned have developed their own style over the years, and SotM for example are pretty successful with it compared to the other ones and us as well. That’s because they’re trying to make a living from it, which means you’ve to invest a serious amount of time and often enough feel like the filthiest whore around. Not our cup of tea to be honest. We’re all fully employed, studying or whatever, and run the band besides, that’s why we’ll never be able to tour and stuff and be that successful. So many Norwegian and Swedish bands from the early nineties have been unemployed and/or living on social wellfare these days, and basically had nothing to do than playing in bands. Germany, to a wide extent, gives a fuck about their artists, that’s why it’s so hard to get a serious amount of attention here. By the way, it’s the same in other countries, like Belgium for example. There’s a really cool band called Gorath splitting up for the same reasons.

On the whole, German black metal seems to be a little more quirky, off kilter and eclectic. To what to attribute this?

To me it’s not that unconventional of course. Everything can only be unconventional if you define what is conventional upfront, and that, again, is probably the Scandinavian black metal scene. My impression is that most of the die hard black metal fans and also bands in Germany have just stopped behaving naturally and also have quit thinking individually after “Panzerfaust”. Norwegians haven’t done so. Why should they. That’s why most metal bands love to tour in Germany — German metal fans are loyal to the bone and you’re surely their best buddy if you just state that you “liked the demo more than the current shit”. Well… actually… I’m not that different. Let’s just say we’re much more traditional and strange.

Do you take pride in the fact that all of Geist and Eïs ’s lyrics have been in German? Is English vs German a point of contention in the German black metal scene?

No dispute about that, no. We’ve just abolished the law that German bands have to write German lyrics a couple of months ago. [Laughs]

Seriously… I’m working as a teacher for German and naturally have a deep affinity for the German language. Much more than for English. My English may be good enough to answer interviews properly, but I’d never be able to write in the poetic language I need for lyrics. So, to me that’s a natural decision I’m not particularly proud of. I’d be proud if I could write lyrics in Hungarian or Vietnamese language. [Laughs]

Can you talk a little about the cover of Sun of the Sleepless’s “Thou, Whose Face Hath Felt the Winter’s Wind”?

Yeah… it’s a song not many people over there in the US will have stumbled over, I suppose. SotS is a project started by Schwadorf of Empyrium and The Vision Bleak during a foggy weekend somewhere in 1998 or 1999. He has released a mini-album called “Poems To The Wretches Hearts”, and the song we’ve covered is its opener. It features a poem written by John Keats as the song lyric, and just is such a moving, stormy piece of black metal… listen to it and you know what I mean. We had some time to record it as a bonus track at the studio, we had never rehearsed it or something. We arranged the song on a sheet within three minutes, played it, Schwadorf himself (who is Markus Stock, owner of Studio E, in person) added the bass guitar, and that was it. We’ve never before did something more spontaneous, but nevertheless we like the outcome very much.

So with a 3 year wait after Galeere, I’m guessing due to the legal issues, will there be a shorter wait on the next album?

I hope so. First ideas have come up already, and with a little luck, we’ll be recording again in about a year.





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