Guitarist Blumi talks about Metal Inquisitor’s new release Panopticon
At the late 90‘s, when Hammerfall emerged and released the Glory to the Brave record, the traditional heavy metal picked up strength. A lot of new bands started popping up and their goal was keeping old school heavy metal alive. Germany’s Metal Inquisitor were one of them, this bunch belongs to the best outfits of the genre. This year they released their five full length album titled Panopticon and guitarist Jochen “Blumi” Blumenthal shared us his views regarding the new material.
So Blumi, what were your views on the metal scene as a whole when Metal Inquisitor got started back in 1998?
I think that we did not realize that we might have been pioneers in doing tradional Heavy Metal. If I remember correctly we were quite alone beside other bands in this genre. Even though our first album came out quite late in 2002, other bands like us were still in the starting blocks. Fortunately, today there is a wealth of traditional metal bands around which formed a very own scene. Just take a look at the legendary Keep it True Festivals. That was hardly conceivable in our early days.
How did you view all of those reformations that happened those times? I think of for example Agent Steel, Necrodeath, Nasty Savage, Metal Church etc.
Well, it was a huge pleasure to see such bands on posters who went to Europe for a reunion. Unfortunately, it was often disappointed, as the bands had lost their minds and some untrue appeared on stage. Musically it was also not what you might expect. So, today I‘m always sceptical when I hear about a reunion. But when you take a look at Satan this was a worth reunion.
Was it the comeback of traditional Heavy Metal?
No, for the comback of traditional Metal were other bands responsible. Especially this wave of newer bands from Sweden for example Bullet, Enforcer etc. And please excuse my immodest kind but maybe also Metalucifer and Metal Inquisitor.
The band was formed by you on guitars, Stefan „Witchhammer” Hüskens on drums, KronoS on bass and El Rojo on vocals. How did you get together?
Well, I already knew Stefan through Metalucifer and so it was obvious to ask him if he is interested in a band in the style of the 80‘s. At the time (1997) there were very few traditional thrash bands but no bands at all who had a tendency towards classic metal. Mostly just modern scrap. He told me that he also knew a bass player and singer who would definitely be interested. Thus, the band was founded. Amazing how easy and fast the band came together. I think we were all young and just had too much time. It’s so hard to start a new band these days because there’s not much time left in the mid 40’s.
Witchhammer was known from Desaster, but what about your musical past? Did you play in any local bands prior to Metal Inquisitor?
I started playing guitar in 1988 and had stopped by the temporary death of classical metal in 1991. Hard to believe, but at the time all diehard Metalheads turned away from Metal and led a completely uninteresting normal life. Well, and me also for a few years. I was called to join Hellbangers Club in 1996 and form that time I started to think about my musical origins. Until about 2000 I had played in the bands Willox (style Genesis/Pink Floyd) and later Teddybeers (Punk and Metal). It was not special but musically very instructive for me.
Do you also belong to Hellbangers? Can you tell us more about it?
I was called to join the Hellbangers Club in 1996. Infernal of Desaster had called the club into being, because like many others he wanted to hear and “live” traditional metal but this kind of metal was completely erased. He said that he would like to start with the known pals from earlier days.
Was it clear for you to opt traditional Heavy/Speed Metal?
Well, it was the only metal thing I knew. But I had to make compromises at the beginning because I actually like midtempo Metal like Saxon. Witchhunter was more a thrasher and not so good at slow play, so maybe it became Speed Metal.
In 2000 Witchhammer left the band and instead of him joined Havoc and you also recruited T. P. as second guitarist. What kind of reasons were behind these line-up changes?
The reason was that Witchhunter had no time anymore for Metal Inquisitor because at this time Desaster become more successful. Beside Metal Inquisitor we had a small Metal cover band where T.P. and Havoc played along. Also El Rojo and KronoS were there. In this respect it was obvious that the Metal cover band became at last Metal Inquisitor.
Was the 4 tracks promo in 2000 with this new line-up recorded?
Yes, it was recorded with this new line-up. This tape became somehow very popular. For me I don‘t like it so much even if it was recorded with an analog tape recorder. Well, it was the very first recording with this line-up so we had not the best interaction in playing maybe.
In 2017 saw the light the The Collection (Japanese Edition). Was it done especially for the Japanese fans? What can you tell us about this material?
Japanese Edition in 2017? Of what? I‘m sorry but I never heard anything about any Japanese release of Metal Inquisitor. Maybe it‘s a bootleg or something what the record company didn‘t tell us, ha, ha!
What do you recall of your 2014 Japan tour by the way?
It has been our concern for a long time to get there, as Japan is also an important market for us and many fans have been expecting us. To our astonishment, we realized that the local scenes were not quite as strong as I had ever met with Metalucifer. But it was still an important tour for us.
When did you start working on the new material? How about the songwriting process?
If I remember correctly, several songs have already been written for the release of Ultima Ratio Regis. But most of the songs were created in 2016/17. This time, T. P. contributed half of the songs to the album. In this respect, the album is more heterogeneous than the previous ones. The songwriting process is always the same. Me or T. P. bring finished ideas into the rehearsal room and work on the implementation of all instruments.
You entered the Gates Of Dawn Studios to record the album. How did the recording sessions go? How long did it take as a whole?
At Panopticon, we spent much more time in the studio than before. The recordings ran over a year. However the pure recording time has remained the same. That was because nobody runs a studio full-time anymore. In any case, we tried very hard to keep the music as vintage as possible, despite the digital recording media because there are basically no more analog tape machines. I hope we succeeded.
Would you say that Panopticon is a kind of return to your first album The Apparition in terms of the length of the songs, catchiness, style and sound?
In terms of the song Free Fire Zone, you can not deny it because it reminds me in some ways of Take Revenge of The Apparition. But I never approach an album with the goal of repeating something. That is absolutely impossible. I just sit down with the guitar and wait for an idea. It may be like fishing where you do not even know which fish bites at some point.
Where do you see the similarities and differences between the new record and the previous ones?
Well, the sound of every album is always different. Already this aspect makes each album unique and not copyable. I have a large selection of equipment and use a different combination of speakers, amps, distortion pedals and guitars on every album. All of that is very resonant and of course the studio itself. But I hope we have stayed true to our style and yet are still changing our music in a certain way.
From start to finish, the songs move with an abundance of speed and groove…
As I said, I think that this album has become very heterogeneous which is due to the split songwriting. We already had the fear that some songs are a bit too Thrash Metal, but apparently that’s still very popular with a lot of fans. For example the songs Discipline and Punish and Free Fire Zone are stylistically different genres.
Do you agree with that the level of the new album is unified and there are no weak points on it?
That’s better for others to decide. But for us as a band it took a long time until we found the album to be good overall. If it is a kind of masterpiece none of us can judge this.
The material represents a perfect mix of NWOBHM and old 80‘s German Speed Metal with lot of twin guitar harmonies, thrilling solos, galloping beat and generally melodic and clean vocals…
Well, when we finished composing the songs we were not at all convinced of the mix. We initially thought that the mix of melodic British Metal and Thrash-like songs did not go well together. But I gather from your question that it does not seem so bad after all. But at last it reflects our very personal influences.
Is it correct that the title refers to English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham’s institutional building and a system of control where all the inmates of a prison can be observed by a single watchman?
I can not tell you exactly if it goes back to this philosopher, since El Rojo had the idea, but certainly our album title describes the same architecture. This kind of prison is probably so dreadful as it prevents any kind of intimacy or withdrawal of a person. By the way let me tell you that my own apartment is also a Panotpicon. From the central lounge it can be easily look into every other room. Whether toilet, living room or the bedroom. Now I know what had always disturbed me in the apartment subconsciously. 🙂
How much support, promotion do you get from Massacre? Are you satisfied with them?
Compared to Hellion Records they do much more advertising and are more professional in distributing. However, you can only be satisfied when the musician gets one day any profit. But I do not believe in that any more, because the CD and LP sales will continue to go down because of YouTube and Spotify. Luckily, the fans of the traditional metal are especially collectable, and so they keep the bands alive.
Didn’t you think to sign a bigger label such as Nuclear Blast, Century Media or Metal Blade?
We had recently tried to get a deal on Century Media and were also very optimistic at first. Unfortunately, younger bands always came first, so we eventually quit this plan. The realization is that we have simply become too old and for family reasons we can no longer completely fit into the music as it would have been possible at the age of 20. I also believe that the appearance plays a certain role. Well, at 20 you look even better than at 40. That’s probably not just only in pop music a kind of rule. But I do not believe that this would ever admit a record company.
During the years you didn’t have so many line-up changes, since 2010 you have a constant, unchanged line-up. What’s your secret? What kind of reasons are behind of this stability?
We all come from the same city and therefore have always been close to each other. In addition, the music business does not put pressure on us and we got a lot of creative freedom. If I recall the end of KronoS on bass, that was not an easy decision. In other bands a separation would have happened after a much shorter time. A 20 year old band existence with the same members also brings big problems. It’s kind of like an old marriage. It’s not always fun, but ultimately it pays off at the end. Bands with permanent line changes often split at some point.
Do you continuously follow what’s going on the Metal scene?
Of course, even though I cannot go anywhere I would like for family reasons, but I try to get all interesting news. Especially I‘m surprised of this NWOTHM. I do not know if this is just a play on words by any person, but in any case I also see a lot of traditional bands that are very promising. Recently, the new release of Sanhedrin blew me away. Metal is still alive in the USA.
What are your plans for the future? How about live shows in support of the new record?
We start with the concerts in May and then have many appointments this year. Especially to Spain it will probably lead us twice. The scene there is very important for us. At the same time, I still have to record the new Metalucifer mini album, which is maybe out in autumn.
Blumi, thanks a lot for your answers! What are your closing words for the Hungarian readers?
Hopefully we come to Hungary one day! That would be great! Any organizer can contact us!