Interview with Kambrium – Behind the scene of “Dawn Of The Five Suns”
I would love to shout it out loud that “Dawn Of The Five Suns” is appropriate to have the place of the best dramatic album in 2018. Kambrium has been building their one and only epic universe since their first full-length “Shadow Path”. I found the band at the second full-length “Dark Reveries” and immediately fell in love with the spiritual and dramatic world. With the previous third album “The Elder’s Realm”, they assured us that they have vivid visions of their music and express it in dramatic stories. Kambrium did it again in the extreme way with “Dawn Of The Five Suns” this time. You would be drawn into the story, would feel like you are stepping into an ancient mystic world when you listen to the album. I just can’t resist of my curiosity about insight of the concept and decided to ask minute details to Maximilian Werner from the band.
Hello Maxi. As a metal lover, I’d like to tell you my thankfulness for the incredible album, first! You created such a huge musical adventure based on Mayan mythology this time! How did you become interested in the mythology and why did you choose the theme for the album?
Maxi: Hello Kumi, first of all thank you for your passion and love in metal, it’s awesome for us to see how people perceive our music. I think by now we have found our own style of music and album after album we could, especially technically, make our dreams about epicness, death and melodic metal come true (and a bit of power metal and black metal and…well we like a lot). For the fourth album we wanted to make a new story after we wandered about nightmares with the protagonist of ‘Dark reveries’ and ‘The Elders’ Realm’. There are a lot of stories in the world, peculiarly northern mythology and we were looking for something rather new (in metal history) and something that would fit into a epic style of music. We found the myths of Mayans and Aztecs: thundering gods, crazy tribes and dark rituals.
One of the obvious differences between the new album and the past releases is the great choir! They are absolutely epic through the album “Dawn Of The Five Suns”. Can you tell us about the choir? How did you organize the part?
Maxi: That was fun time! We asked friends and music colleagues and spent two sweaty and throat exhausting days with some bbq and beer as reward. We are so happy about bringing 16 talented singer together. Our goal was to highlight many already really catchy melodies and to make people sing along. We decided us for a men choir to bring the martial tribes to life. Warriors and heroes and all, without sounding like Manowar. We hope we achieved that!
The amazing musical adventure begins with the exotic intro “Forest Hunt” and it leads us into the ancient deep forest beyond time and space and let us open the door to see the formation of the world. The following title track “Dawn Of The Five Suns” is just awe-inspiring and it shows us the outline of the Mayan version of genesis at once. Actually, I only know few about the Mayan myths including dawn of the five suns but I can say the song expresses its point very well. And I found that you added some wonderful keyword - “hope” in it. Could you explain what you wanted to show with the song?
Maxi: As in the cycle of life everything grows and everything dies. And starts again.
When a God dies another takes his place. Sometimes before the old one even has passed away. In the other songs, especially Cabrakan, hope is what mankind keeps alive and makes them fight for their
survival in hope for a better future. Kinda like Terminator in the stone age, when I think about it.
The great title track also appears as an official music video. The background in the video is total white/blank but it reflects a huge forest time by time and that’s beautiful. Who’s idea? Why did you make it like that?
Maxi: Jan had the idea to make the next video different. Again we worked together with Offtoneadventures from Collogne. It was then the third video with Marius and his crew. We grew over the time and got to know each other. After endless hours in an open pit mine and filming in a freezing warehouse we tried to keep it simple but aesthetic. The video shouldn't be cluttered but give room for us musicians as representatives of the modern age on the one side and the mood of the song on the other side. Standing in the corner of that white room was rather disturbing as there was no corner for the eye. Fortunately we could look the other and didn't Fall over while head banging.
The arrangement through the album is totally fabulous, not only about the orchestration and narrations but also the sound effect like the roaring of jaguar, tweeting of birds (…maybe including quetzals?), let us soak into the spiritual Mayan world. It’s like a sophisticated tapestry. How did you organize all those complicated stuff in great harmony?
Maxi: Album after album Jan 'put a shovel on top' as we say in German. More orchestrations more details. Our range of favorite bands goes from Whispered, Wintersun, Nightwish to Septicflesh and Rhapsody of Fire. Jan also listens to a lot of classical and particularly soundtrack music to weave the story that the lyrics tell into the instrumental background. Every sound, every chord, every note tells us something. And so it came that we arranged jungle sounds too to soak in the listener into a world far away.
“Against All Gods” makes me totally exciting and I can’t resist for shouting out the chorus part with the mighty choir. Within my imagination, this song points about mankind who was made by gods and was destroyed by gods over again. I can feel enough power in the epic choir part with their unbreakable determination. Could you tell us your thought about the song?
Maxi: Hell, yes!
It's about defiance against the own gods, self-confidence, saving what's left to save.
We love to play the song live. It's so full of energy and I adore the fast guitar riffs. Three solos! First Karsten, then Jan and me. We'll play it as the first song live to show what we have to offer to the audience. At the last concert near Augsburg there was a girl with her boyfriend. She entered the room when we just started the first chorus and her eyes got wider and wider. She was totally flashed and those moments are the moments that make all the work behind an album worthwhile.
The next track “Cabrakan, God Of Mountains” is a breathtaking saga together with the following “Everlasting Resistance”. It tells about the rise and fall of the merciless giant and son of Seven Macaw – Cabrakan, and about the mighty heroes – Hunahpu and Ixbaranque who defeated the giant, right?
Maxi: Yes, exactly! Quite a bit like the Greek gods who had adventures out of boredom or mingled with the fate of men. Except here the Mayan gods quarreled over their succession to world domination.
I’d like you to tell us about the wonderful story teller in “Cabrakan, God Of Mountains”. Who was responsible the narration?
Maxi: As the Finish band Whispered is one of our favorites and our music style is often compared to Turisas we contacted their narrator, Jonathan Hutchkins from Finland. He has such a great voice, perfect for our stories! And he did a marvelous job.
“Everlasting Resistance” is my super fave song in the album. Every element on the track is extremely epic: the musical performance, the choir, lyrics, arrangement and of course the tune itself. Especially the final chorus part gives me endless goose-bumps, cos Martin plays Cabrakan’s role with his evil growls, Karsten and the choir stand as the fearless resistance, and it goes with an aggressive dialogue. That’s total energetic! How did you come up with the theatrical idea?
Maxi: As the song is quite in the middle of the album we wanted a dramatic climax that later should cumulate into the epic ending and the reign of Mictlan.
“Ghost Shaman” has totally cool drumming and the song itself is a dark one with some black metal taste, and the real fast instrumental part in the middle is just intensive and killer! Could you tell us about technical points in the song?
Maxi: This song also is made through the lyrics and the story it tells. Imagine a small hut within the jungle far from civilization. Crossing the threshold you see jars, bottles and mixtures on shelves and gloomy ember. In it's flickering shine a shadowy figure appears and offers you a cure for your ills. In the end you give away parts of your body to pay the shaman. Frightened and paralyzed by fear you realize that the jars and bottles are filled with unlucky souls and that you will be just another one in the ghost shaman's collection. We captured that feeling with a verse free from dashing guitar sounds. Drums and orchestra underline Karsten's clear voice. The chorus gives you a little glimpse into the shaman's schemes. And for the 'crazy part', think of it as the mind of this soul collector. Don't mess with It! Btw, Fabi is an awesome ghost shaman! That title was also our inspiration for our costumes.
I have no idea what ghost shaman is. So, could you explain the story about him?
Maxi: That ghost shaman is someone or rather something difficult to grasp. Obscure, erratic and something that you would avoid. But sometimes people need his help. For example when they are hopelessly sick. Or need his spell power against cruel gods.
The second half of the album goes darker than the first half. “Tribe Of Darkness” and “Sacrifices Must Be Made” deal with one of the distinctive Mayan customs – suicide/dispatch as self-sacrifice. Mayan even had a goddess of suicide – Ixtab. I think you guys succeeded to express the dreadful image within an epic mood, without an unbearable woeful mood. Could you tell us about your thought behind the theme?
Maxi: I guess the Christian invaders did their thing to make the Mayan rituals look dark(er). Every culture, religion and their rituals are perceived differently by others. But it was exactly that apocalyptic mood that inspired us. Maybe you know about the film 'Apocalypto' where a young man his family get captured to be sacrificed to the gods and can eventually escape and free his wife and kids. In the end...well, see for yourself! For our modern (western) society it's hard to imagine being sacrificed. It's cruel and seems unnecessary. Also the Dark of Tribe...I mean Tribe of Darkness is a song about mysterious obscure people who hunt people through the forest to sacrifice and eat them. Cunningly the new Tomb Raider game 'Shadow of the Tomb Raider' features such very creatures.
“Nocturnal Woods” stands as a connector between those dreadful themed songs – “Tribe Of Darkness” and “Sacrifices Must Be Made”. The atmospheric orchestral tune makes me stay sharp and tells me like the brutal situation won’t be end. Did you research a lot about the tribal culture and environment for the album?
Maxi: Through my studies of history we had a little bit more cultural context but we wanted to focus on myths and a certain atmosphere rather than historical correctness. In this case we go more after Amorphis than ExDeo.
“Blood Soaked Goddess” is the evilest track in the album, has a black metal taste but exotic and dramatic solos. There’s no clean vocal part in the song. Could you tell us about the brutal goddess?
Maxi: This is a song mostly in triplets and has a fast feeling to it. We wanted a song for head banging without too much guitar fiddling. Do you recognize the voice next to Maddin? It's Melissa Bonny from Rage of Light from Switzerland. To describe an evil goddess you need an evil female voice. And there Melissa lived up to her band's name! That song is brutal!
“Lord Of Mictlan” is absolutely appropriate for closer of the spiritual and epic tales. Mictlan is Mayan version of Hades and Mictlantecuhtli is the lord of the realm. So, the song belongs to the god of death. The ending is just shocking, and I don’t want to be a spoiler about that, want every metal fan to find it out by themselves. So, without mentioning the ending, could you explain the song?
Maxi: Well, it's the last song, the end of the album and also the end of the time of Cabrakan. It's Lord Mictlan's turn now and he will come and reign. So with this album you witnessed kind of the reign of Cabrakan and his mischief, another human unfriendly goddess and the rebellion of mankind.
I’d like you to tell us about the beautiful artwork. Who did manage the cover art?
Maxi: We are so happy about it! Felipe Machado put so much energy into this new artwork and it comes from his heart. He comes from Columbia and its jungles are part of our stories too! You him from his works for Xandria, Rhapsody of Fire and, of course, Blind Guardian! You see probably Cabrakan and those beautiful rebels and heroes who try to save their village and entire world of being destroyed. It's jungle, it's pyramids, it's dark and ghostshamy!
You guys are totally professional for the stage-costume as well! Do you manage the design by yourself every time?
Maxi: Hehe, thank you! Well, no.
Somehow Jan knows a lot of people and he contacted Melanie Lindner from Hamburg. She did such a great job! We told her our wishes for a gloomy dark shaman costume, what ever that might be, and she put together those great robes. You know Powerwolf? Those costumes are her work too! And I got a little jaguar skull as shoulders. After our release show, where we played over 2,5 hrs, I saw that the skull scratched me (or might I say bit me?). My arm was red and it looked like a little burning satanic cross. So fancy!
How was the album release show? How did your fans there like the new stuff?
Maxi: Three words. Oh. My. Fucking God!
It was awesome! We played together with our friends from Revolt (Thrash Metal "vom feinsten" à la Kreator) in our home Wolfenbüttel. (You know Jägermeister? That's where it comes from.)
First we played the whole album and right after that we played a long set of old stuff. We had so much fun and so many friends and fans came over. And when I'm honest, it was the very first time we had a release show at the very day of album release. So, long story short we had a blast!
This is the final question. How do you describe Kambrium as a metal band?
Maxi: We are family.
Jan Hein - Keyboards & Orchestrations
Karsten Simon - Guitar & Clean vocals
Martin Simon - Bass & Growls
Fabien Chmiel - Drums
Maximilian Werner - Guitar & Backing vocals
If you are curious about the whole lyrics of Dawn Of The Five Suns, check it out here!