Call of the Sirens by Craving was the first review I did for Toilet Ov Hell. I was pretty nervous since I wanted to impress everyone that runs the site. On top of that, everyone has their opinions when it comes to music. Would I compare Craving to another band or genre that others disagreed with? Well to my surprise, I got some feedback from the only source that matters. According to the band, I “nailed it” with my review. What better way to start my writing career than to be told I have all the right opinions! Gotta be careful though. Don’t want to get a big head about it. Apparently this whole album has a through-line about narcissism; an inflated ego is a tell tale sign. Wait, you don’t think the band wrote this album about me do you?! Hopefully I’m not that far gone yet.
So this first series of questions is for your drummer:
What’s it like to play on top of a castle?
Wanja: The view from up there was super amazing! Never before has playing the drums felt so epic 😀
How did you get permission to play on top of a castle?
Wanja: Ivan contacted the Altenburg Verein (who take care of this castle) and asked for permission and they were very friendly.
If I visit Germany, can I also play drums on top of a castle?
Wanja: Who knows? Just ask friendly and see if it works out 😉
Ivan: For this you need a license in 250bpm drumming for 20 minutes straight. Wanja can guide you through though… ^^ here you can find the fortress btw.
I also noticed in the video it only seemed to feature two guitarists, a drummer, and no bass player. According to Metal-Archives, you guys are currently a three-piece. Obviously on the album you’ve got more than a full range of instruments. Was that a struggle during the writing process? I know you had a few guest musicians step in, but how does that work live?
Ivan: Writing process went smooth as butter. Metal-Archives has (wrongly) written for almost a century that we are a Celtic metal band and worship elves and summon the gods of river dance while playing live. We have two dudes filling the live spot for playing bass. We are perfectly comfortable as a three-piece.
Wanja: Yes, we currently have only two session bass players and we decided to only include the “full members” in the video shooting. I think we didn’t even have a session bass player at the time we shot the video, if I remember correctly. Drums, guitars, bass and vocals are the core ingredients of the music despite all the additional layers of keyboards, choirs etc. So we were able to work out all the basics and then Ivan just added the rest on top. We run all the orchestra/keyboards from playback – this means we all have to play on click and there is no room for major fuckups but we got used to it and are confident enough in our skills to pull it off.
You said one of the biggest through-lines of the album is narcissism and you had a personal experience that led you towards that theme. I’ve dealt with that in my personal life, too. In some cases it can take years before you realize what’s going on. Would you care to elaborate on how that impacted your life at the time?
It made me see how many narcissists I have encountered in the past, and this eye-opening experience left me wrecked. If I hadn’t had this experience with this particular person, I would never ever have believed anyone what this person is really like. It was a horrible experience on one hand but a teaching experience on the other hand.
Did it change your worldview at all?
Ivan: Yes for me it did and it’s freaking scary. But this is the harsh reality. Homo homini lupus est. I am also a bit afraid that this experience made me more cold and less empathetic than I was before.
Kind of a harsh irony in that, huh? You encounter someone that is cold and lacks empathy, and it causes you to react in almost the same way.
The scary thing is that those people are not cold and lacking empathy at the first glance. They seem to be very normal people. In my case the person tried to destroy my reputation with a combination of trying to do as much damage as possible. And yes harsh irony, you start paying more attention and maybe enable yourself less emotionally.
A couple of tracks on the album aren’t in English. While it’s not uncommon for bands to write lyrics in a different language, what was the motivation for leaving “Mich Packt die Wut” in German?
Ivan: I’m fluent in German, English and Russian. Thus, it was a cool idea back in the day to write multilingual. It came naturally to me to write in German. The song “Mich packt die Wut” is about intense anger. During my childhood in Russia in the post-Soviet era, I encountered various challenges. These struggles, coupled with my difficulty in managing my emotions, particularly anger, added to my distress. With time, I discovered that my experience resonated with men suffering from borderline personality disorder, who often experience severe and recurrent outbursts of rage throughout their lives. The lyrics of “Mich Packt die Wut” (Engl:”I am seized with rage”) describe these moments of intense anger.
“Lass mich in Ruh, bis ich mich besser/Mich packt die Wut—meine Seele wird zum Messer”
“Leave me alone until I feel better/I am seized with rage—my soul becomes a knife” suggests the protagonist may become violent and act out in a blind rage if provoked.
Similarly, “Дева Солнца Pt. II” is all in Russian. Did translating those songs to English somehow take away from the vocal rhythms or otherwise change the feel of the song? Maybe just personal preference?
Ivan: From the first album on we’ve been using the poems of the Russian poet of the Silver Age, Nikolaj Gumilev. He was traveling a lot and wrote many poems about many topics. I am not quite sure but I think this one is about the Lady Sun of Chinese history or mythology. It’s about a king who is looking for his young love, finally finds her and gets rejected…going on a killing spree after that. I am fluent in the different languages, so I didn’t “translate” anything, the lyrics were written in each language from the start and on purpose.
Wanja: Also our target audience is international and since we are from Germany, we have quite a few German listeners, so it makes sense to include different languages. I think it is a nice touch especially because the different languages have all their unique vibe and sound to them.
For detailed song explanations, lyrics, and to see individualized artwork for each song, head on over to www.cravingmetal.de/lyrics
You guys have had quite a few lineup changes over the years. On top of that, between your last album and this one, COVID took place and made things difficult the world over. Was this album substantially harder to work on than your past records?
Ivan: Call of the Sirens is the smoothest and easiest album so far in terms of production and songwriting. Plus we have a very good label with us.
Wanja: One of the things that led to this long wait for Call Of The Sirens was simply our search for a good label and we are now very happy with Massacre Records! So for us the long search has paid off.
Craving has a pretty unique blend of power metal and black metal, along with some symphonic elements that keep it all pretty melodic. What are some of the bands biggest influences that led to that sound?
Ivan: Thank you! Really appreciate that you get the Power Metal / Heavy Metal reference. Here in Europe or in Germany people are screaming “Pagan Metal” when they hear our choruses. I am really happy that you got this reference of Power. The clean singing is inspired by Hansi Kürsch from Blind Guardian. Everything else? By life and the mood of the moment to be honest. I try not to copy other songwriters or bands, at least I try not to. Bands which were my first as baby-Ivan: Children of Bodom, Finntroll, Wintersun, Ensiferum, Cannibal Corpse, Blind Guardian, Deicide, Anaal Nathrakh, Behemoth, Discordance Axis, Woods of Ypres and many more. I recently discovered the black metal band Blackbraid and am currently listening to the whole discography by Type O Negative.
Wanja: My drumming is certainly inspired by Nick Barker for example, especially by his work in Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. I like the way his drumming supports and even elevates the music and this is what I always try to accomplish. It took a lot of work but in the end I am very happy with my drumming on this album! I am also very happy with the final mix and the way the drums are working together with everything else.
Any big tours lined up in the near future to support the new album?
Ivan: We are currently looking for a skilled booker. The gigs we have so far this year:
Let the Bad Times Roll Festival 2023 (/w Thulcandra)
October 21, we play in our old hometown of Oldenburg.
Header artwork by All Things Rotten