Finsterforst – On Forgotten Paths…

finsterforst_bannerThe mist is rising from the Black Forest and within it’s curling folds of mystery, finds the epic tones of Germany’s Finsterforst unveiling a vibrant union of folk black metal by way of Quorthon. Rastlos, the bands 3rd full-length effort, is a very mature offering of mid-paced and powerful compositions that instantly struck a cord within me due to Finsterforst’s attention to detail and seemingly effortless soul reaching atmosphere. With songs breathing a life all their own in spite of their sometimes obvious influences, Finsterforst increases their scope with traditional instrumentation (Accordion? Who does THAT?!) and a very serious sonic view of a folk genre often cheapened by more popular bands employing corny melodies and fur wearing goofiness. Passion and a fire for expansive metal are 2 impressive traits wielded by Finsterforst, making Rastlos one of this years “out of nowhere” additions to my personal best of 2012 list. Having been enamored by this album, I also quickly picked up their last, …Zum Tode Hin… perhaps a bit more black metal minded, but no less short on amazing quality. Finsterforst are a band worthy of closer inspection… let this interview be your gateway to a bigger and darker world. The main songwriting visionary behind this band, Simon Schillinger, recently took the time to educate us all on Finsterforst’s journey through a greatly overburdened genre. Enjoy. -Marty

Worm Gear: Finsterforst has a rich history behind it, even though your band may not have as deep of a following in the US. could you give our readers a view into the bands history?

Simon Schillinger: Finsterforst was found back in late 2004 and started to perform live in 2007 after the bands line-up was completed. We created pretty fast an underground fan base in Germany and played more and more gigs during the following years. After releasing the first two albums “Weltenkraft” and “…zum Tode hin” our popularity grew more and also people from outside of Germany started to get a little crazy about us, hehe! Since some time we have a new vocalist who is blowing away everything! With the new album “Rastlos” and a record deal with Napalm Records we plan to attack now finally all the listeners and want to present [the] finest Black Forest Metal.

WG: I own …Zum Tode Hin and find it to be a very moving strike of folk influenced black metal. Rastlos greatly capitalizes on this theme, but moves away slightly from pure black metal, and into more of an epic, mid-paced Bathory influenced aesthetic. How much of an impact would you say Quorthon’s vision has had on your sound (if at all) and how would you describe the evolution of Finsterforst?

SS: Well especially in “Rastlos” you can slightly hear the relation to Quorthon’s music. But it never was some deep intention to go into one specific direction and I think that our sound and music have developed into something very flexible and varied. There are so many different musical passions and influences mixed together which result an enormous wall of acoustics. In the beginning of our existence we clearly made more of that cheery folky stuff. When you listen to our EP “Wiege der Finsternis” (2006) and our debut album “Weltenkraft” and compare those pieces with “Rastlos” then you probably won’t even recognize that this should be the same band. From this dancy and simple Folk Metal Finsterforst developed to something heavy, complex, well balanced, deep and serious.

WG: …Zum Tode Hin was noticeably more aggressive than Rastlos which adopted more of a majestic/emotive atmosphere and writing style. what has changed within the band to usher in this welcomed characteristic? As an outsider looking in, I would say that the soundscape created by the band is more open, leaving more to the imagination…

SS: Much time passed since the release of “…zum Tode hin” and I put very much effort in the whole writing process of “Rastlos”. I guess we grew in our minds and simply developed musically and lyrically. The whole song arrangements are simply “correct” now and the single pieces are easily understandable. Further on, the better studio production brings the massive compositions to an adequate level of epicness.

WG: Your press material mentions The German Black Forest… as I listen to and become swept away by the atmosphere on Rastlos, it’s hard not to envision oneself being consumed by a very dense woodland scene. Was this the intention? Would you say that Rastlos is the sonic embodiment and result of the bands forest born obsession? For those of us likely to never experience the forests of Germany, how would you describe them and how do they compare to other countries should you have had the time to explore beyond your own world?

SS: There was not any exact intention that should have delivered only one specific atmosphere or feeling, but of course there is a certain influence of our homeland, the Black Forest. When you listen to “Rastlos” you shall imagine your world however you would like it. No matter if vast woodlands or enormous mountains with icy landscapes – it is totally up to the listener. I personally think very much about the Black Forest, when I listen to the album and this won’t change for the future works of Finsterforst.
It isn’t really working to describe forests in a few words. You have to experience it by your own and feel the peace and silence of these surroundings. If you decide to make some German vacation, then you should spend some time in the Black Forest in a nice guesthouse and enjoy the delicious regional cuisine and the best beer in the world!

WG: An album that feels this epic in scope suggests there is a deeper concept lurking behind the music. Not having the lyrics, or the ability to read German, could you share with our readers a bit of the tale unfolding on Rastlos?

SS:“Rastlos” tells the story about a guy, who has lost everything in his life and was forced to leave his homeland. Without orientation he tries to find a new place where he would be able to stay and adapt to. During the whole album you can feel all the time his different emotions and moods – desperation, sadness, anger and frustration constantly cross the protagonists mind and he freaks out from being helpless and lost.

rastlos_covWG: Listening to Rastlos, Joseph Campbell’s ruminations on the ‘power of myth’ come to mind. For example, even if a culture’s mythic ethos survives and thrives throughout the ages, it can ultimately devolve into superstition/religion in some but in others evolve and elevate itself as an artistic and philosophical pursuit. In what way has German myth impacted yourself and Finsterforst the most? Has Teutonic folklore affected you as a person, and not just as a musician? If so, how?

SS: To be honest, there was and is no affection of any mythology. I personally don’t know much about myths and stuff like that. I also don’t spend much time in thinking and philosophizing about life and its sense, because I don’t want to drive myself crazy with an unsure and endless discussion about that. Everybody should feel comfortable with his or her own way of thinking and believing; without trying to convince or harass anybody with it. So, from what was I affected then, if not some particular folklore? I guess from everything that happens around me during daily life no matter where I am at the moment – positive and negative things hitting my mind unconscious. In addition, the Black Forest delivers a certain deep feeling of being home, which leads to the fact, that the music and its whole atmosphere turn out to sound very warm and defined.

WG: When it comes to folk influenced metal, a lot of the more popular bands take that element a bit too far in my opinion making it sound light hearted and a bit silly. I found myself connecting to Finsterforst due to the fact that you don’t go this route, rather adding subtle folk elements which provides a darker atmosphere. What are your thoughts regarding the folk metal scene and how does this shape what you do with your music?

SS: If you listen to our EP and debut album, you often hear also this kind of cheery metal. I share your opinion, because I also think that often many bands are simply making some party music. It is totally amazing, because the atmosphere can be very sociable and you can have one hell of an alcohol freak time, but it easily can turn out to become some very “cheap” done music, which mainly sounds too monotonous and boring. Good for us, that there are certain bands, which release brilliant albums that are filled with extreme perfected music. Of course it is a matter of taste, if you prefer to listen to simpler music than to deeper and more serious music. Finsterforst definitely will follow more and more into a very wide spectrum of breathtaking atmospheres and certainly won’t adapt to any poppy mainstream folk stuff. The folk/pagan metal scene from nowadays anyway decreases step by step since year after year the same tour line-ups are presented in the same locations. Further on, more bands are arriving; flooding the market with more “drinking-horn”-metal. I don’t judge anything or think something very negative, but people started to forget the valuing of music. Facebook, Twitter and their smart phones became a bigger part in their lives now.

WG: On the same topic, an accordion is very much a part of your sound which isn’t an instrument often utilized in the metal world. What brought you to this instrument? it seems like its usage would be a bit limited, but you have embraced it and somehow made it work…

SS: From the very beginning on our idea was to include an accordion in every song. While the usage of it was much bigger in the first releases, it is recognizable that we reduced it; especially on “Rastlos”. Now the music is well balanced – decent accordion, many melodic vocals and a massive wall of guitars and orchestral keyboard elements.

WG: Finsterforst is an active touring band. As I listen to your latest album, I find it hard to believe that the band can capture this potent level of atmosphere in a burnt out club. How do you adjust your delivery (if at all) or mindset when playing in an area/venue that may be difficult for any band to effectively share their music with a willing crowd? What have the reactions been to your music live and how big of a part is this element to Finsterforst?

SS: It is obvious, that we can’t really present the material live exactly how it is on the record. Older songs we can perform in their original structure of course, but especially the new music we have to change a little bit for the stage. Not always we have to cut something from the arrangements, but for example we have to decide which exact instrumental parts and elements we want to play live, because after all we are “only” seven idiots on the stage and unfortunately we put too much different content in one song, haha! The audience mainly is pretty euphoric when we perform live. Also the new material already was accepted and celebrated quite hard. The live element is very important for us, because we always have endless fun on stage.

WG: Ten years ago the german black metal scene felt a bit behind the times with bands emulating the lesser bands in the scene, but thankfully there has been a revival of more individual bands like yourselves, trying to write music with a purpose and genuine feeling. Would you agree with this statement? have you noticed a change, or more attention being paid to the German bands? How do you see yourselves fitting into this movement?

SS: It is not easy to get very much attention, if you’re not from Scandinavia, haha! Well there are many bands that try to follow something particular only for the hope of gaining more popularity. I don’t judge that, but with Finsterforst I will go our own way – staying true to our intentions and feelings for music. I will stay with a positive belief and hope, that people will learn to value music again.

WG: Rastlos is your first album for Napalm Records, a label widely known for it’s support of folk influenced metal and the promotion of bands that may be a bit more in the public eye than Finsterforst. This seems like a good thing for you! How were you discovered by Napalm and have you noticed more attention coming your way as a result of this union? How do you feel your band fits on Napalm’s roster and has being involved with a label of this caliber been all you hoped it would be?

SS: I had contact with them since quite some time and I am happy that they stayed interested in Finsterforst. The label does a great job and it is more than recognizable that the promotion started very successfully. I am sure, that during the next months Finsterforst will gain much more popularity and the fan base will grow. Further on, I wish that all the people who enjoy our music will also buy the album. We are very satisfied and grateful to be on Napalms roster – so now let’s conquer the world, haha!

WG: Thank you Simon for your time and for unlocking some of the mysteries surrounding Finsterforst. Kindly take the time to plug your wares and we here at Worm Gear are greatly anticipating the bands next album!

SS: Thank you very much for the support and interest for Finsterforst! Enjoy the music, go through your lives with happiness and see you some when on the road to cheer with a ton of beers and Schnaps! Cheers!
http://www.finsterforst.de
http://www.napalmrecords.com

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~ by martyworm on December 11, 2012.

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