Heaven Shall Burn Guitarist Maik Weichert Discusses New Album "Invictus"
German melodic death/metalcore group Heaven Shall Burn launched the band's latest album "Invictus" in North America on June 8th, 2010 via Century Media records. "Invictus" is the third act of the "Iconoclast" trilogy. Guitarist Maik Weichert recently discussed the themes behind the album and the band's decision to make a trilogy of interconnected releases.
Discussing the history of the band, Weichert shared "We are doing the same as we did twelve years ago when were founded. We’re five friends playing together, meeting twice a week and rehearsing and playing a show once in awhile. Just the record sales changed. The way we do things and the way we are didn’t change." Weichert went on, with a good dose of self-deprecating humor, to discuss topics such as the band's choice of cover songs, the recent rash of metal musician deaths, and the way war has affected the world.
xFiruath: Metal news has been dominated recently by news of several musician’s deaths. Did any of these musicians have an impact on you and would you like to discuss them at all?
Maik: Ronnie James Dio was always somebody I looked up to. It was something that was always there whenever I thought about listening to metal. Peter Steele was also somebody who was there when I started out listening to hard music in the ‘90s. I’m not that old that I’m into that old Carnivore stuff, but I was into Type O Negative. There are all these people dying now, and I don’t know what’s happening now. I don’t know, maybe it’s a secret government program from Tipper Gore or something. It’s sad and I don’t want to make fun of it but it’s just depressing. Almost every week some metal head is dying.
xFiruath: Tell me about the history of Heaven Shall Burn.
Maik: We are doing the same as we did twelve years ago when were founded. We’re five friends playing together, meeting twice a week and rehearsing and playing a show once in awhile. Just the record sales changed. The way we do things and the way we are didn’t change. So that’s a pretty brief history, but that’s the way it is. We had a guitarist who left but he still comes over once in awhile and jams with us. We’re like the band next door.
xFiruath: What got you started in music?
Maik: I started really late. When I was 18 or 19 I started playing guitar. I couldn’t play guitar at all before that, although many people say I can’t play guitar at all still now. At least I’ve learned a little bit over the years. I started playing really primitive hardcore music. I was a metal head but I had the skills for playing punk and hardcore, so maybe some kind of harsh metalcore came out of it.
xFiruath: It’s interesting that you say it that way, because I’ve seen a lot of different descriptions of what genre Heaven Shall Burn belongs in. What style do you specifically think the band ends up in?
Maik: I think we are kind of a modern metal band. If you want to say we are hardcore or metalcore that might be true of our attitude. Our attitude is still really hardcore like. We were influenced by bands like Earth Crisis and stuff like that. We still have the attitude of being really political and social, but the music I think is kind of really melodic death metal.
xFiruath: Where did you guys record the new album “Invictus” and how does it sound in comparison to earlier albums?
Maik: We recorded in Denmark and in Germany. That was part of the concept to make it not that different from the record before because it’s part of the trilogy. The approach was that you should listen to the first record and the third record in a row and you wouldn’t really realize they were two records. That’s why the main theme in the intro is almost the same. We had Tue Madsen mixing it also.
xFiruath: Since the album’s are so closely connected, have you considered releasing them all together as one box set with a bunch of extras?
Maik: That’s an interesting thought and I just discussed it with the label the other day. We are definitely thinking of something like that. It would be great putting out a really cool box and maybe the entire story and concept together in a book or something.
xFiruath: What are the lyrics about on “Invictus?”
Maik: The lyrics are about hero stories. Heroes that are very well known seen from a different point of view, but also unknown heroes that should be known more. Like heroes in the second world war for example. There is the song “Return to Sanity” and it’s about a German soldier who tried to save the life of an American soldier wounded in a minefield. You should ask questions about your idols the person who is on the throne.
xFiruath: You’ve got the Deadlock vocalist making a guest appearance on this album for female vocals. How did that come about?
Maik: Deadlock is from our area, we are really close friends with them. We play shows together and so when I wrote the lyrics I had an issue that was a very emotional and sensitive topic. The song turned out to be more emotional than usual, so it would have been stupid to scream and grunt the lyrics over the fragile music. We sent over the file to Deadlock and wanted them to try something out. They made a totally cool thing out of it and we didn’t change anything after they sent it back over.
xFiruath: What are the upcoming plans for the album? Any music videos or tour dates?
Maik: Yeah we did the music video for the song “Combat,” which will be a bit different. I don’t want to reveal too much, but it should be out within the next few weeks. We’re not touring Europe for the record because we have festival season now. It doesn’t make sense to do a real because people won’t spend the money on club shows since they go to festivals. We’ll play a lot of festivals and reach a lot more people that way.
xFiruath: What bands are you listening to lately outside of the new album?
Maik: At the moment I’m not listening to my own stuff at all. I listen to it while writing and recording and mixing, so I’m set for the next months. In half a year I might listen to the record again. I don’t listen to country music or anything like that, but besides that I like everything from Napalm Death to Bjork. I have a playlist for every mood I have. At the moment I’m listening to a lot of technical black metal stuff like Germany’s Secrets of the Moon. That’s an amazing band.
xFiruath: I have a couple of questions I’d also like to ask that came from a fan. First off, what made you guys put the more electronic sounds at the forefront of this album?
Maik: That is a good question. We always had the electronic stuff in the past but this time we started to make it more obvious. The feedback about the electronic stuff on “Iconoclast” was really good. We were looking for a new dimension to our sound. Eventually you reach a point where you can’t go any further with the screams and all that so we wanted to add a new element. That will be developed in the future as well.
xFiruath: One of your fans also wanted to know about the guys in the band and if any of your family members were personally involved in combat in World War 2.
Maik: Oh yes, our drummer’s grandfather was in the German SS and he was killed by the Russians after the war. His other grandfather was a soldier in the war. My grandfather didn’t come back from Stalingrad. Actually almost everybody had somebody involved in the war. That’s actually a really interesting question because it shows how people in North America think about war. They don’t have the consciousness of having a war on their own territory. The second world war was just next door so of course every family was involved in the war in some way or lost their homes or something. There are many American families losing family members in war of course, but having the war at home is something different. In Germany nobody would ask if anyone had relatives involved in the war because all the people in Europe were involved in the war.
xFiruath: How do you guys choose your cover songs?
Maik: That is very spontaneous. The Therapy? song was something we heard while having dinner and decided to give it a try. When we covered “Black Tears” on the “Iconoclast” album, that was something I had wanted to do for years. That’s an amazing track and Edge of Sanity has never gotten as much attention as they deserve. It’s such an influential band so that was the plan for ages to cover that song. Sometimes I hear a really cool riff too and I want to steal it, but that would be too obvious so we just cover the whole song.
xFiruath: What prompted you guys to do the vocals in English instead of German?
Maik: German is a very hard language and its hard to write lyrics in German that don’t sound stupid. There are only a few people who can do it well, like Rammstein for example. This time we have some German lyrics on the record as well, at least a few lines. The political dimension to our music is very important. You have to hear our music together with our message, so spreading our message in a world language like English is a lot more effective to our concept.
xFiruath: Anything else you’d like to add?
Maik: People should watch out for the upcoming video for “Combat.” I’m really curious on what people would say. We’re working hard on getting a North American tour together. We get tons of emails from people asking when we will play there. It’s not really easy for us because we can’t do eight week tours, but we are coming for sure and we’re working on that. Even if we only play in front of 50 or 100 people, we don’t care, we’ll come.
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