Lords of Bedlam

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To this day, one of my very favorite metal songs is “The Calm Before the Storm”, the sort of title track from Hollenthon’s second album, 2001’s With Vilest of Worms to Dwell, an album that truly opened my eyes to how death metal, symphonic, classical overtures and ethnic instrumentation could go hand in. The album […]

To this day, one of my very favorite metal songs is “The Calm Before the Storm”, the sort of title track from Hollenthon’s second album, 2001’s With Vilest of Worms to Dwell, an album that truly opened my eyes to how death metal, symphonic, classical overtures and ethnic instrumentation could go hand in. The album was even more eye opening for me when I discovered it was the brain child of Pungent Stench’s Martin Schirenc, a long time staple in my death metal CD rotation and a band more known for its sick humor and irreverent take on death metal. Now seven years after Vilest Worms, Schirenc is back with a long awaited new Hollenthon album, aptly titled Opus Magnum and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about the new album as well as other topics….

First off, I’ve always wondered, what does Hollenthon actually mean-is it really the name of a village near you?-I was hoping for something more epic and metal.
Yes, it is the name of a small village in Austria, but it’s a great sounding word in my opinion. Almost as if it was a medieval spelling of a German word that could be translated as ‘hell’s sound’. And I also picked it, because it was very unlikely that there’s already another band with that name.

What was the desire or basis for starting Hollenthon? Pungent Stench was really starting to peak in 1994 what with Club Mondo Bizarre and three years after the acclaimed Been Caught Buttering-just a change or pace? Bored? Creative alternate to Pungent Stench?
I started Hollenthon mainly to experiment with different sounds and music styles. Pungent Stench was very limited when it came to song writing or instrumentation, so I decided to start my own project that would give me the possibilities to try new things. I wasn’t bored with death metal, but I wanted to explore new ways of writing music and that’s how Hollenthon came to life.

In regards to your back catalog, Domnus Mundi seemed to be an almost ‘world metal’ album with all sorts of cultural influences from Classical to Native American to Maui/New Zealand tribal stuff (the awesome haka on “Reprisal – Malis Avibus” for example), but those elements seemed stripped back in favor of a more traditional symphonic/orchestral approach for the next two albums-why so?
I didn’t really give it much thought, so it was more a natural thing that happened and not a planned one, although Opus Magnum does have more ethnic influences again. Mostly Middle Eastern and Indian ones, but they’re not a s prominent as on Domus Mundi, because I put more focus on the guitars this time.

I personally still think With Vilest Worms to Dwell is one of the most perfectly executed examples of metal and classical/ orchestral experimentation, is there a sense of pride with what you accomplished with that album, considering its 7 years old now?
Well thank you! Other than production wise, I think it still holds up pretty well, so yes, I’m proud of it.

What is the writing process when putting together such an ambitious mix of metal and classical instrumentation-how are the two balanced and what thought process is there for making it all gel?
There is no strict formula how this, because sometimes I start with the classical or ethnic part and add the guitars later. That often happens when I have a certain melody in my head that shouldn’t be played by a guitar. Other times I have the metal part ready and orchestrate it afterwards to make it sound bigger and more epic. It’s all a matter of trial and error, and I’m often stripping the arrangements down at a later point to keep the songs from sounding glutted or forced. It’s all a matter of finding the right balance and deciding what’s the most important instrument during a certain part, while taking the others a little be back. That can be quite time consuming, as you probably can imagine.

Why the 7 year wait from Vilest Worms to Opus Magnum? It’s not like Pungent Stench has kept you busy. What else have you been up to for the last 7 years?
Actually, Pungent Stench has kept me quite busy, because we were a heavy touring band and besides of the song writing, I was also responsible for our recordings. I did continue writing stuff for Hollenthon, but I always put off a new album, because I couldn’t focus on it a 100%. I really didn’t want to end up with a half assed album that I’d just hate after a while. That and I’m probably also a little bit lazy…

How long did Opus Magnum actually take to come to fruition-has it been in your head for a few years all did it all come together relatively recently?
Well, there have been several ideas I’ve been working on in the past years and some of them even made it on the album, but the majority of Opus Magnum was written during the last year before its release.

Opus Magnum seems to have a slightly more Middle/Far Eastern vibe (i.e. “We Once Were Kings”) is there a fascination with that culture?
Yes, I’m interested in this culture, and I’m fascinated by their music. It’s very different to what we’re used to hear and poses a great inspiration for my song writing. Arabic scales are certainly nothing new in metal and many guitarists use them in their leads, so it’s no big surprise that these two music styles go together so well.

Is that Elena Schirenc providing the female vocals again? How is it working with your spouse (I assume) on an album?
Yes, that’s Elena singing and she wrote all the lyrics again. And while we’re not a couple anymore, we still have a friendly relationship and I enjoy working with her very much. She’s been part of Hollenthon since the beginnings and she knows what this band is about.

Do you play live a lot and how hard is it putting on a live Hollenthon show?
We’re playing live all the time! Not so much in the past, but now we’re doing lots of festival shows and we’ll tour Europe in October. Our first show was in 2002 and I was a little concerned about this undertaking, but it worked out pretty well and I have improved the technical aspect to bring Hollenthon on stage ever since. Nowadays we’re working with a laptop computer for the orchestra parts and the band plays along with it. There’s actually quite a few live videos on youtube, although the quality isn’t always the best.

Why the cover of The Tea Party’s “Bazaar”? That’s your first cover song I’ve heard in three albums-any other cover ideas? I’ve always thought you were a perfect band to cover great movie themes like Conan, Last of the Mohicans, etc (You already dabbled in Braveheart on Domnus Mundi, correct?)
I just happen to like that band and thought one of their songs would make great material for a cover version, because they’re also using a lot of ethnic influences. It was fun to remodel a song somebody else wrote and I might do it again. Who knows, maybe we’ll do a whole cover album some day

What’s the status of your other projects, Kreuzweg Ost and Fetish 69?
I quit Kreuzweg Ost, because I don’t have the time for it anymore. Silenius released a second album and he’s working on new material, but I’m not part of this project anymore. Fetish 69 was never my project. I just played guitar on one of their albums and helped them out on some live shows. They’re not active anymore, though.

Any chance of a Pungent Stench re-union? Seems to be the thing to do right now
No. We already did the reunion thing and it didn’t work out again, so that’s it.

On a sort of side bar that’s been a hot subject here at teeth of the divine, the Opus Magnum promotional CD that Napalm was a voice over promo. What’s your take on labels protecting their investments, i.e. your albums by voice-overs, digital watermarks etc to prevent music piracy and early leaking of albums?
I guess it’s pretty annoying for the press when they hear this voice over crap, but then I do understand the record companies, too. When the promo was ready, it took one day until I found it on the internet and with the voice overs, they can at least avoid the leakage of the real album before it’s official release. It’s a tough business and record companies are struggle to survive.


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