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Interview

Empyrium Mastermind Markus Stock Discusses New Album "Über den Sternen," Relationship With Prophecy And Much More

Few bands can continue for nearly thirty years and continue to evolve as artists. Some find their style or niche and stick with it, others make unwise choices which costs them their fan base, but it takes a true artist to move away from early material and still retain their credibility. Enter Markus Stock, AKA Ulf Theodor Schwadorf, the man behind Empyrium. Since 1994, Empyrium has gone from a folk tinged doom metal band, to becoming one of Germany's most revered dark folk bands.

Last Friday, Empyrium released, "Über den Sternen," their first album in seven years. It's already earned positive reviews and a warm response from fans and to find out more about this fascinating work, I spoke with Markus Stock himself. You can read the interview in full below.

Diamond Oz: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me today. You're about to release "Über den Sternen" your first album in seven years. What was the reason for such a long wait?

Markus Stock: I am also the composer and “mastermind” of other projects such as The Vision Bleak and Sun Of The Sleepless and I am running a pretty successful recording studio. Also Thomas and myself have another project together – obscure 70s Rock inspired called Noekk. This are the reasons that we take a longer time for each album. We simply are involved in many other artistic endeavours. Besides being an active musician in all the aforementioned projects I am also a busy and successful producer with an own recording studio, a passionate photographer and family father.

Oz: What would you say makes "Über den Sternen" different from "The Turn Of The Tides"?

Stock: I think TTOTT was more of an experimental album while still being faithful to the Empyrium spirit. I am still content with „The Turn Of The Tides” and it was the right album for us at the right time. We couldn't have written an album like „Über den Sternen” in the period between 2010 and 2014. We were pretty inspired by Dead Can Dance and Brendan Perry's Solo Album at the time of working on TTOTT and as with everything in life, things and also music have their distinctive time. „Über den Sternen” and the return to our older form of expression feels in many parts absolutely right now in 2020/2021 but wouldn't have been the right thing for us back when we wrote TTOTT.

Oz: You've released a music video for the song, "The Three Flames Sapphire," which has a very haunting quality about it. How well do you think the video captures the spirit of the song and how much creative input did you have?

Stock: Impressively well! Oliver König – the director – did a tremendous job capturing the kind of images we had in mind. We talked on the phone during the making with how it should look, what atmosphere it should creat etc. and he did it splendidly!

Oz: How much did the COVID pandemic affect the recording process?

Stock: Not at all. The album was finished before the shit hit the fan.

Oz: The artwork is certainly different from traditional metal album covers. Who created it and would you say it's an accurate portrayal of the music itself?

Stock: The Cover Art is an interpretation of the Album title (meaning Above the Stars) and also our band name Empyrium. Empyrium in the medieval cosmology means the “fiery sphere” that is located above the firmament that we see so the stars are just holes in the night sky letting the light and fire of Empyrium shine through. The character/boy on the cover puts a hole into the sky with a stick and thus let's the light of Empyrium shine into his world. It's very symbolic for the album. A french artist is responsible for the cover artwork. My dear friend Fursy Teyssier, also live member of Empyrium and mastermind of Les Discretes.

Oz: Like all of your previous albums, this one is being released through Prophecy Productions. What would you say has been the reason such a long lasting relationship with the label?

Stock: It's like an old married couple. Sometimes we are disagreeing on stuff and each of the parties gets a little weirder with age but it doesn't mean that we don't really cherish each other for the way we walked together. I had many offers from other labels during all the years but always stayed with Prophecy because I really feel well in this niche that we have created. Both me as an artist with all my bands, me as a Producer and also Prophecy as a label.

Oz: Since live shows are more or less impossible at the moment, what plans do you have to promote the album further?

Stock: No real plans. I learned that this is not the right time for plans. We go with the flow.

Oz: You've been involved with a lot of other bands in recent years such as Ewigheim, Sun Of The Sleepless and The Vision Bleak. Will any of these bands also be releasing new music in the near future?

Stock: Currently I am starting to write a new TVB album but when it will be finished I don't know. I hope we can finish it this year. That would be awesome!

Oz: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me today and I wish you every success with "Über den Sternen"

Stock: Many thanks for the support!

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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