You can read this post in: Portuguese (Brazil)
Slechtvalk, a veteran band from Netherlands. Do not let your prejudice on the way when you listen these guys. It’s an amazing band and that you will please the people that like melodic black metal/viking metal style. We talked a bit with Shamgar. See below the awesome chat we had.
GroundCast: Starting from the beginning, please, could you tell us a bit of the band’s story to people that maybe do not know you yet?
Shamgar: Of course! After some failed attempts to form a band in the ‘90s, I decided to record material on my own and programmed the instruments I couldn’t play properly (drums & keyboards). Late 1999 I recorded several songs this way and was looking into releasing a demo on cassette, when I talked with some people who advised me to create a CD. One of these was Raffi Trapman from Fear Dark, who released a couple of CDs before. He offered me a record deal for a full length album, so during the year 2000 I finished recording the other songs and had them mixed by a proper studio. This debut album ‘Falconry’ got a lot of attention and I got in contact with other musicians who wanted to form a band with me.
As a band we released 2 more albums plus a DVD with Fear Dark. Also, because Slechtvalk was a band now, we started playing gigs and played most of them between 2003 and 2008, because Fear Dark also helped us getting gigs, something most labels don’t really do. After Fear Dark decided to quit, the number of gigs we played dropped significantly.
Fortunately we were able to find a label to release our 4th album ‘A Forlorn Throne’ with (2010) and during that time we also hired a Booking agency, but that didn’t work out that well for during 2 years the booking agency only arranged a couple of shows. We kinda let it go, because having just a few gigs a year was convenient to some of us, but in 2012 we decided we wanted to create another album. We tried to find a new record label then, but without success, so we had to save up money ourselves. That didn’t go fast enough, so late 2014 we launched a crowdfunding campaign which was reasonably successful and allowed us to record ‘Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide’. Unfortunately without label support, we had to do everything ourselves and some people we worked with kept breaking the deadlines. Early 2016 we finally had most things done and hoped that a new search for a record label would be successful (with new album almost ready), but didn’t find anything so we decided to release the album ourselves.
GroundCast: Which are your musical background? What influences you as individuals and as musicians?
S: As a kid I learned to play classical guitar and during my teenage years I listened to all sorts of music, ranging from Nirvana to Metallica until I discovered death & blackmetal. Inspired by bands like Dimmu Borgir, Dark Funeral, Dawn and Immortal I wrote ‘Falconry’. During the years beyond I also started listening to Pagan/Folk metal, which were a big influence on the third album ‘At the Dawn of War’ and more recently I’ve been listening to mostly melodic deathmetal or blackened deathmetal. Grimbold (drums) and Seraph (guitars) played in a Thrashmetal band together back in the 90’s. After that Grimbold became a huge Opeth fan (until Opeth started to make psychodelic 70’s rock) and nowadays he mostly listens to doom/death like ‘Swallow the Sun’ and ‘Draconian’. Seraph listens to the same kind of music as I do now (‘Immortal’, ‘Amon Amarth’ and many other death/black bands). Premnath (keys) listens to all sorts of blackmetal and gothic metal, while Dagor (bass) listens to mostly death/black, but ‘Dream Theater’ is his all-time favorite.
GroundCast: Doing a bit of research about the band I saw that the lyrical themes are: Christian themes, Fantasy, Battles and War. First of all, did you have any problem for using Christian themes in your songs (as lyrics) as we all know that lots of bands and fans are not fond with the Christianity or something similar. I ask this because once in Brazil the band Antestor had a problem, while they were playing some “real black metal fans” were outside waiting for the band to beat them up, luckily nothing happened, but it’s an attitude so primal and I feel sorry that it still even exist nowadays.
S: The first album ‘Falconry’ was explicitly Christian, because I’m a Christian and at that time these were the only lyrical themes I thought a Christian was supposed to write about. While most other Christian bands even preached on stage, I never felt the urge to do so and their attitude and the explicit black/white lyrics started to bother me. Especially because I didn’t agree with all theologic concepts I wrote for ‘Falconry’, I decided to change the lyrical themes for Slechtvalk to fantasy/battle themes, in such a way that it would inspire me as a Christian (the concept of ‘Spiritual Battle’ was pretty vivid for me back then) and that it wouldn’t be so degrading to non Christian fans. During the years I met many people who had negative experiences with know-it-all Christians telling them what they can and can not do, so I decided to write more about my own feelings and mistakes and how I dealt with them in a fantasy/battle-themed setting, because I believe many things (like dealing with depression or addiction) are universal problems with the same negative results, regardless of your faith. Anyone with similar issues could identify with my own experience and it’s up to them how they deal with it. I just give a glimpse of how I dealt with it in my lyrics.
Especially in the early years we had problems with blackmetalheads that hated us for the fact that we are Christians, over the years this became less aggressive though, but even today we still meet resentment. People who won’t take our music seriously or writing negative reviews just because of our faith, but also people who write angry emails to festivals who dared to book us.
GroundCast: The band existis since 2000 with 5 Full-length released, the last one “Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide”. How do you see the band’s evolution throughout the years?
S: The first two albums were considered to be good albums, but they didn’t achieve the high production standards of the bigger bands. The third album had a bit better production-level, but we couldn’t keep up with the standard set by Immortal, Dark Funeral and the rest of them. We wanted to make an album that was on par with the big bands and luckily we found Whirlwind Records willing to invest in ‘A Forlorn Throne’, so we could record it with people who worked with ‘Katatonia’, ‘Opeth’ and ‘Amon Amarth’. It was a thrill to do that, but we also discovered that preparation before entering the studio is extremely important. ‘A Forlorn Throne’ turned out to be a great album, but there were many things we had wanted to do, but just didn’t have time for it in the studio. This is one of the reasons we took more time preparing for ‘Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide’, so that we would not run out of time during the recording process. This approach worked, because we now had some time to spare to try out different things, without sacrificing production-quality.
But this was mostly the production aspect of our evolution, musically the earlier albums were more straightforward symphonic blackmetal. Grimbold (and his brother Seraph who joined later in 2005) thought it was a bit too straightforward. He and his brother missed the technical finesse of bands like ‘Opeth’, ‘Immortal’ and even ‘Dimmu Borgir’ and thought paying more attention to the rhythms would make our music more interesting in the long run. So the many hours they spent on trying out different rhythms made their mark on ‘A Forlorn Throne’ and ‘Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide’.
GroundCast: Except for the two first releases – Falconry and The War that Plagues the Land” – the band takes long periods to release something new, like “At the Dawn of War” in 2005, then “A Forlorn Throne” in 2010 and now “Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide” in 2016. Why does it take so much time to a new release and does it interfere with tours or anything similar?
S: During the first couple of years, most of us didn’t have a family and I didn’t even have a full-time job. We were also blessed with Fear Dark records who took a lot of work on their hands so we had much more time back then to create music. When more of us got married, had children and also a full-time job, the process of creating music took longer as you can imagine. When were we were left without a record label after ‘A Forlorn Throne’, we literally had to do everything ourselves. Getting the money together before even attempting recording new material took quite a while. We didn’t want to create an album that sounded worse than ‘A Forlorn Throne’ and after the successful crowdfunding campaign we expected we would be able to release it in 2015. Unfortunately, the high standards we set for ourselves combined with the tight schedules of the people we worked with, who didn’t always had time when we sent our list with remarks, proved to be the source of several delays. During Spring 2016 we decided to try finding a record label once more instead of releasing it right away, but we didn’t receive any response and when we decided to release it by ourselves, we still had to wait for the production company to have time to manufacture the albums.
GroundCast: Are you active in the Christian Metal Scene (in case it exists one) and how is it?
S: There isn’t much of a Christian Metal scene here in the Netherlands. There are only a couple more Christian oriented shows a year and I only go there if the bands appeal to me.
GroundCast: We are in the internet era, where everything can be easily found and download. Even countries as Germany (where do I live now) that have strict laws against illegal download people still do this. What is your opinion about it and how it impacted the musical scene you are into.
S: We can easily tell how much illegal downloads impacted us. Of the album ‘At the Dawn of War’ 2005 & the DVD that was released at the same time, Fear Dark Records sold many thousands. Of ‘A Forlorn Throne’ which was released in 2010, much fewer copies were sold even though that album received much better reviews and attention from international media. It’s a bit too early to tell what the prospect will be for ‘Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide’, but I don’t expect it to have higher sales than ‘A Forlorn Throne’.
We can also see a difference in the attitude of Record Labels. In the early 2000s, most record labels would happily invest in the production costs of a new album, but these days they require the band to pay all production costs themselves and only after the initial album sells well enough they might consider investing more.
We have a loyal fanbase, so we might be fortunate enough to earn enough to invest into a new album on our own, but I know several bands who have 3-4 times more Facebook likes, yet struggle to even reach the 1000-sales mark.
And with most Governments cutting back on culture/music sponsorships it’s even harder for a band to get a proper fee for a gig.
My opinion is that if you like a band’s music and want them to continue making music then buy their album and perhaps additional merchandise and visit their shows if you have the money for it, because recording albums can cost a lot of money and once the ‘family-factor’ kicks in many bands are forced to quit, because if they have to choose to spend their hard earned money on a new bicycle, clothing or education for their children or to create a new album a proper parent would give first priority to their children.
Even if you live on a low wage, there are several options like Spotify to listen to a lot of music at little cost legally, where bands would at least get some money (from advertisement/subscription revenues), so there is no need to illegally download music.
GroundCast: Are you involved in any other project or Slechtvalk is your only musical priority?
S: Slechtvalk is my main musical priority and so far the only one that is productive, but I’ve got some other side-projects I want to release something with someday. Soon I’ll be switching jobs, so I can work 20% less without earning 20% less allowing me to spend some more time on those projects, so hopefully I’ll be able to record something decent with them.
GroundCast: What do you expect for the band in the next years? What are the future plans?
S: Because there were 6 years between ‘A Forlorn Throne’ and ‘Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide’ we already have many ideas for a future album, so hopefully we’ll earn enough from record-sales to invest in a new album or find label willing to do so (and speed up the process) within the next couple of years. Six years was a bit too long 😉
GroundCast: What does the name “Slechtvalk” represents to the band and how it’s bound with the releases?
S: ‘Slechtvalk’ is the dutch word for ‘Peregrine Falcon’. I chose this name, because I wanted something original: Too many English alternatives were either already used by several bands or sounded cheesy and I thought that our musical style kinda fits the character of this falcon (soothing & atmospheric vs aggressive & fast). I generally make a reference to the falcon in the lyrics of at least in one song per album and on older album’s we had the artist include a falcon somewhere in the artwork. Since we had Raymond Swanland redesign our logo (2010) we also have a Falcon-crest symbol underneath the logo.
GroundCast: Thanks for the interview, now the place is yours to say something to our readers.
S: We want to thank everyone who supported us during the years. Without the support of our loyal fans, we couldn’t have made ‘Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide’. If you read this and haven’t heard our music yet, check it out on Spotify and if you like it and want us to create more, we hope you’ll support us by buying our album and other merchandise at our own webshop www.slechtvalkmerch.com