The German doom/death metal band Nailed To Obscurity just released their latest album Black Frost, their fourth overall and first for Nuclear Blast. We caught up with vocalist Raimund Ennenga and guitarist Volker Dieken, who give us the scoop on the new record, signing with Nuclear Blast, touring, their all-time favorite German metal bands and other topics.
Chad Bowar: Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Black Frost compared to your previous albums?
Volker Dieken: We started like we always do. Ole (Lamberti) and I met to collect some basic ideas on the guitars. But this time it felt even more difficult to judge what we actually were doing and how to evaluate it. I don´t know if it was because we felt a bit pressured, since we had been really happy with our last album King Delusion and we just wanted to keep up that level. At some point we just tried not to care about it and started writing.
After we established a framework, we took the ideas to the rehearsal room where the actual songwriting with the entire band started. That’s the way we´ve always done it. Working out our songs all together, jamming and discussing the material. Tons of it got lost on that road and the stuff we liked the most made it to the album. With Black Frost we´ve really worked hard, as hard as we ever did before. Meeting together every weekend (and I mean EVERY weekend), beginning from morning ‘til late night, for over a period of probably 9 months or so. It was a tough but nice experience for everyone. But the biggest difference in the writing process in comparison to our previous albums was, that we went to the studio prior the actual recording. There we could present the songs to our producer and after that we took our time to work on the songs. It really made a big difference and during this time the pieces grew a lot into what they became in their final form.
How did you decide to work with producer V. Santura (Tryptykon, Dark Fortress) again this time?
Volker: Chemistry has been more than right with Viktor ever since we started working with him. So by the time our recording session for King Delusion was over we already knew that we wanted to work with him again. We really like him a lot, as a person and a musician and he is just the perfect match as the producer for NtO. He really gets us as persons and what we want, musically speaking.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Volker: Well, maybe the answer is a bit boring, but it is the way it is. The best moment is always listening to rough mixes for the first time inside the studio. It is the moment of truth, so to speak. And luckily I was not disappointed.
Raimund Ennenga: Besides the aforementioned listening session for the rough mixes, I had a special memory recording the bonus tracks. We re-recorded three tracks from the NtO-debut Abyss and the recordings for the vocals started right after listening to the rough mixes of the new material. So, I was very nervous. I started with three small parts for the new songs that we agreed on redoing because the first result was okay but not overwhelming. Time flew by very quickly and it was already around 11 pm. Then, I did the vocals for the re-recordings and it was like all nervousness went away. It was just pure fun and we recorded till around 3 am (and you have to know that the day started very early for us). But it was just a great momentum and we wanted to keep that. After all those kind of stressful days that we had recording the new stuff, this was just a great ending.
How has your sound evolved from King Delusion?
Volker: Talking about the instrumentals, some people might say Black Frost sounds less melodic but more mature and ambient. It is simply that on Black Frost we tried to give room to every instrument and especially to the vocals. It was our goal to emphasize some parts with powerful lead guitars on the one hand, but also kind of reduce the instrumental section at some points to put the vocals on focus. In other parts it is the bass together with the drums on the spot. In general I think the new material is more complex to the listener’s ears.
There is a lot of stuff going on within each song and I guess that is why it just takes some time for the listener to catch the whole package. Aside from the fact that we love to play with the contrasts of clean and mellow parts alternating with heavy outbreaks, there is no formula when it comes to writing songs. We all felt that we wanted to create something dark and heavy, yet beautiful at the same time and with that goal in our minds we let our ideas flow. Actually, that is how we´ve always done it, just that with every new record each member develops in their own individual way and so does the music.
Did you struggle with song order at all?
Volker: Not really. Fortunately our bass player Carsten has sort of a special ability to arrange song orders in the best way possible. Usually everyone of us agrees on his ideas immediately and so we did with the tracks on Black Frost.
How did you come to sign with Nuclear Blast?
Raimund: We were all very satisfied with how King Delusion turned out and we thought that it might be the right time to do the next step in our evolution as a band. Tomasz from Apostasy Records (our label back then) had the same idea. He asked us if we would like to keep him as our manager. Then, he would search for a fitting label. It was great because we really wanted to keep him in our team. We were very happy with everything he did for us. Then, he presented the offer from Nuclear Blast and we all were just blown away. Blown away by the fact that such a big label had an interest in working with us and blown away by this chance as a whole. The signing was a no-brainer and we are still in the realizing process. Being part of this incredible roster is just mind-blowing.
How does that change your goals and expectations for the album?
Raimund: Our goals stayed the same. We wanted to do a strong follow-up to King Delusion without copying ourselves. But we really hope to catch more listeners all over the world. We really want to be able to reach out to everyone that could be interested in our music. And Nuclear Blast is definitely a great playground. So, our expectations towards the amount of reactions grew a lot. And so far all reactions have mainly been really positive.
What has been your most memorable Nailed To Obscurity live show?
Raimund: I joined the band in 2012. So, I can’t say much about the very early shows but the most memorable show was the Wacken Open Air in 2014. The festival is located quite near to us because we are also from Northern Germany. And we all have been to the festival numerous times. Now, we were on the same billing as Slayer, Behemoth, Arch Enemy, Amon Amarth, Kreator, etc. This was just a dream come true. We played the tent stage very early (around noon) but the crowd was just insane and it was a lot of fun.
What’s your favorite way to kill time on the road?
Volker: Whenever I can, I try to sleep. If that’s not the case it’s always great to hang out with the other guys. We listen to music, watch series/movies and fool around constantly. It’s always a lot of fun.
Raimund: Besides the stuff Volker mentioned, I also try to go jogging as often as possible.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Volker: Right now I listen a lot to Idle Hands – Don’t Waste Your Time. For me it is one of the biggest surprises, which came to my ears out of nowhere in the end of 2018 and has not left my player ever since.
Raimund: I received a promo version of the new Soilwork record from our label just recently and I just have to say that it’s great. This has nothing to do with us going on tour with the band, but it’s just a great mixture of so many genres. It’s just unique and awesome.
Who are your all-time top five favorite German metal bands?
Volker: Well, for my part I would say it’s Kreator, Disillusion, Long Distance Calling, Dark Fortress and recently Sulphur Aeon.
Raimund: I would go with Obscura, Kreator, Decembre Noir, Dark Fortress and Dawn Of Disease.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Raimund: I’d like to thank you for your time. Please check out Black Frost and let us know your opinions. Have a great start to 2019!
(interview published January 14, 2019)