So, I understand the band was formed in early 2002, which were the founding members?
Yes, we started our journey though the spheres of Metal back in early 2002. The band was founded by me out of my desire to pursue the way of traditional Heavy/Power Metal. I was looking for guys to start a band with and after some tries, the first real line up was born. This line up featured Michael Petrick (v, g), Christian Flindt (bass), Peter Hennen (key), Till Oberboßel (g) and Martin Weber (d).
What inspired the name of the band?
I wanted a fantasy like name for the band but without sounding too cheesy, avoiding terms like “dragon”, “steel” or “fire”. Plus it should be a positive sounding name and I always liked the idea of bands naming themselves after a song of their favourite band. Well, I guess some people find Elvenpath more than cheesy, haha. But after all I’m happy we came up with this name which of course was taken from the Nightwish song with the same title. I love Nightwish although this didn’t really have much effect on our music. And we liked the idea of having a link to the creations of the mighty J.R.R. Tolkien, his elves being the fighters for the good side. So all the pieces just fell into place and fitted – the fantasy, the positive and rightful power and our admiration for our own influences. The name sounds good and is easy to memorize although people keep mistaking us for Elvenking, haha.
Was this the lineup that recorded your debut demo?
Yes, the line up mentioned above can be heard on our first demo “2002”. Peter left shortly after and we never got a new keyboard player again. So we were down to a four piece band and continued this way until 2004.
What were the influences of the band at the time?
We had different favourite bands but there was some common ground. We all loved bands like Iron Maiden, Helloween and Blind Guardian and this was (and still is) clearly audible in our music. I also was strongly influenced by epic bands like Manowar and Bathory and brought this element into our music. All in all Elvenpath was destined to be a band dedicated to Power Metal, mostly the European way i.e. very melodic and maybe anthemic. But we had some US influences too as especially Michael liked bands like Titan Force, Jag Panzer and Fates Warning.
Your debut CD, “Gateways” was released in 2004. What would you say were the differences to the demo and the improvements you as musicians saw in this one?
When comparing “2002” and “Gateways”, the first thing people will notice is the fact that all the songs on “Gateways” were pretty long. The songs run between 7 and 10 minutes – something we only realized after the recordings, haha. We didn’t intend to write more complex songs but apparently we had the urge to put more parts and more details into our songs than before. And we continue to do so – we actually take care of the small details in our music very much and even in those old recordings one can hear this. Or at least try to…as the production is just plain horrible and all the fine details are buried somewhere in the mix. We really liked the sound then, incredible, haha.
But we were a little more experienced than in the beginning and knew what direction we wanted to go. I still like the first two CD’s very much as I believe the compositions were really good, but looking back at them today I realize how little knowledge we had of arrangements and production. The songs deserved a much better presentation than they actually received.
There was a major line-up change in late 2004, could you please expand a little on this one?
Oh yes, the first of several changes that were to follow…well, as so often there were different views concerning the musical perspective. Martin enjoyed playing the drums for Elvenpath but always particularly loved Death Metal and Grindcore, so in the end he chose to leave the band to pursue this direction. Michael more and more lost interest in Power Metal and got into Prog Rock a lot. This ended with him leaving along with Martin and playing different music too. All in all we parted on good terms, we still see each other here and there and Martin helped us out on several occasions when we had gigs but no drummer. Once an elf, always an elf, haha.
It then took us about half a year to establish a new line up and Elvenpath grew into a five piece band. After a few shows there was yet another change on vocals but then we were ready for a new takeoff.
The band supported SKYCLAD on a tour in 2006, right? More info please!
That was such a fantastic experience! We hadn’t been on a proper tour before and I was so happy when we received this offer. It was the work of Jose Costa of the band Sacred Sin. Back then he ran a label that distributed our CD and he also booked tours, so when he set up this Skyclad tour he gave us the chance to come along. The tour wasn’t very long (a week and a half) and not really well promoted which resulted in mostly rather poor attendance, nevertheless we loved it. You know, I’ve been a Clad fan since I was 15 and being on the road with them was a dream come true. They were really nice to us and treated us very well, we became friends quickly.
This was our first possibility to play abroad and establish contacts in Belgium and the Netherlands which would help us very much for later shows. And we had some good fun with the Skyclad guys and their crew. Besides this, they guys really lived up to their reputation concerning chaos everywhere, haha. Their bus suffered several accidents and breakdowns on the tour, they played most of the shows without an intro as the sound guy had forgotten their only intro CD after a few gigs, they even forgot a guitar along the way…and a few days after the tour I received an ehail from the merchandiser who told me that on the way home a door in the bus had opened, allowing the possessions of the guys to spread all over the motorway. Well, should you hear a rather odd story about Skyclad someday; you can bet your ass that it’s true, haha.
So, your 2nd CD, “Spyrol” is released in 2008, tell us a few things about it. It took the band four years for this one, but when it was finally released did it satisfy you first of all?
That was quite a demanding time for the band. Plans for a new album were made quickly but as often things work out differently than intended. As I already mentioned, the first singer we had after the 2004 split left after only a few shows and we had to look for a new singer. Tim joined the band literally a few days before the recordings of “Spyrol” began. Most of the recordings were done in the winter of 2005/06 but then the offer of joining the Skyclad tour popped up and we couldn’t refuse. So work on the album was abandoned and we prepared for the tour instead.
After the tour there was a change on guitars as our guitarist Heiner fitted his role less and less which became really obvious on the road. We then got Anastasia as the new guitarist and with her work the album was finally completed in 2007.
We intended to release “Spyrol” on a good label and sent out a lot of demos but unfortunately this was not to be. We received some offers from labels but these were uninteresting at best, clear rip-offs at worst. So we opted to take the law into our own hands and release the album by ourselves again. Which meant additional work concerning the layout etc., therefore it didn’t see the light of day before 2008.
Looking back on it nowadays, I still like the album very much. The production is very strong – after the dissatisfying sound of our two previous CD’s, we spent a lot of cash to record in a professional studio and it was worth it. And I’m satisfied with the songs, the vocals, the musicianship, nearly everything. Some songs like “Late at night” and “Act the innocent” are a bit different to what we’d normally do, in my opinion it adds a new but fitting colour to the music. There is not much I would change on the album.
What has the band been up to now ever since the release of “Spyrol”?
As usual, line up changes were our fate. Our drummer Markus left even before the release and we had difficulties filling the gap. We played some shows with a stand in drummer but then Anastasia and Tim left too because they were busy with their other bands and projects. So, just like in 2004, Cris and I were abandoned and had to face the question of burying the band or trying to establish a new line up.
We decided to give it one more go and look for new musicians. And after several months the line up that now can be heard on “Elvenpath” was complete. We played a good deal of shows, playing new songs along with the songs already released. And in autumn 2010 we went back to the studio to record the new album which was released in March 2011.
The new album, “Elvenpath” is once more released on your own. This means that you couldn’t secure a label deal or you wanted to do it on your own? It looks fantastic, most CD’s from labels don’t look as professional as yours!
Thank you for your kind words. I believe it’s important to have a good visual presentation along with the music. Being a huge fan of countless bands myself, I regard our CD’s with the eyes of a fan. I want a nice cover artwork and a large booklet with lyrics, photos, credits etc. – value for money, you know? An album is not just for your ears but also your eyes should be able to enjoy the feast.
Actually we would have been interested in releasing the album on a good label, but again the story was the same. No serious label wanted us. The offers we received were nothing that we couldn’t achieve by ourselves. So we preferred to stay in control of everything and release the album by ourselves. These days you don’t need a label for a release, so why sign a contract that will not bring you any advantage. No matter how idealistic their words may sound, any label, big or small, is more interested in sales figures than the music. Therefore the underground surely brings more quality than you will find on a label. There are exceptions of course but they will only prove how true the rule is.
Although the style of the band remains the same, melodic Power Metal the European (mostly German way), I got the feeling this time the music tends more on the heavier side, am I right? Was this done on purpose and for what reasons?
I agree with you. Well it just came naturally; we didn’t plan to become heavier. But we hardly use keyboards any more these days, we just enjoyed listening to heavier bands more and this influenced us. But I’m sure that our melodic roots will always be present in our music, I’ve listened to too many Helloween songs in my life to abandon this completely, haha.
The new album also has guest appearances by Quimby Lewis (SKULLVIEW) and Uwe Lulis (ex-GRAVE DIGGER, REBELLION). How did these happen?
Uwe also lives in Frankfurt, I’ve known him for a few years and we often run into each other at shows or the Speak Easy (Frankfurt’s best Metal bar). He’s a really cool guy and a totally underrated guitarist. I simply thought it would be a nice idea to have him as a guest on our album, and when I approached him he immediately said yes. I absolutely love the solo he did – it just sounds so much like Grave Digger in their glory days!
Quimby…that’s a funny story. I had written this small intro for “Guardians of the underground” and I wanted a native speaker to do it. If possible, the guy should also be a kind of cult figure in the Metal scene – and Quimby definitely is! When Skullview played at Swordbrothers festival in 2010, the guy was standing outside and talking to fans. I approached him and asked him about my idea. He immediately agreed, we just walked over to my car, I handed him the sheet with the lines and held the tape recorder (yes…old school recording!) under his nose. He quickly got it into it and the third take was perfect. Made me enjoy the Skullview show later that day even more!
I’m really proud to have both these guys on our album, to me their participation is a testimony to their friendship and Metal Brotherhood and that’s why I value it so much.
Is it too early to tell me what the feedback from press/fans and sales of the CD have been so far?
Generally the feedback has been very fine. Most reviews were positive and it was often mentioned that some of our obvious influences (Manowar, Iron Maiden etc.) weren’t able to write music on this level any more. Which is arguable of course but made us proud nevertheless, haha. Some negative reviews showed up too of course but they were few. And reactions of the audience have been satisfying as well. I’m thoroughly pleased seeing that people truly appreciate our music.
I can’t name any exact sales figures, simply because we delivered a lot of copies to different mailorders and distros, often on a trade basis, and I have no idea how many they sold. But I guess all in all a few hundred copies made their way to the fans.
You have songs in the new album dedicated to Metal, like “Guardians of the Underground”, “Into the Future” and the “Truelogy”. What motivates you to write such “cliché” lyrics?
It should be noted that there are two sides to the coin here. “Guardians of the underground” and “Into the future” are serious lyrics that speak of our love for Heavy Metal. We’re simply dedicated Metalheads who are terribly mad about this music, the greatest kind of music ever to grace the planet earth. So we felt the urge to express our feelings with these songs. “Into the future” is like a trip back in time, meeting the bands that paved the way for the scene we have today. And “Guardians of the underground” is a tribute to the sacred thing which is the Metal underground – the bands, the distros, the fanzines and most important: the fans. They all dedicate their time, their passion and their money to the scene without thinking about any profit, united by their love for Heavy Metal. To me the Metal scene is like a family, a worldwide brotherhood and this had to be put into a song.
And then there’s the so called “Truelogy” which is actually a parody of people who take these “True Metal” clichés very seriously. I mean, we certainly love Metal but we like a good joke too and always found it amusing to see people in the scene with apparently no sense of humour at all. We wrote “Metalwar” back in the early days to make fun of them, the song is just a joke actually. Although I admit that I love it and it’s really good too – whenever we do this one live, the audience is banging their heads as if they could never do it again in their lives.
A sequel wasn’t intended but one day we jammed in our rehearsal room and ended up writing “War of steel”. There and then we decided to make it a trilogy and write another song called “Metalsteel”. It took some years before it was actually done but then those three songs were complete and ready for being recorded. Don’t take these lyrics seriously – no sane person would, haha. But have fun with them, that’s what it’s all about.
Seeing that you are a dedicated Metal fan yourself how do you see the current underground scene and the renewed interest in Classic Metal?
The scene is larger than ever which means there is an incredible amount of good bands but also plenty of rubbish. I really enjoy going to concerts and festivals and discovering new bands all the time. There are plenty of festivals popping up everywhere that dedicate themselves to bringing traditional Metal to the audience which is generally a good thing, but unfortunately these promoters seem to book the same bands quite often. I really have nothing against Omen, Manilla Road, Doomsword or Metal Inquisitor, I’m a fan of them, but it seems that every festival tries to book them instead of looking out for some bands that haven’t had the same chance. And especially in Germany festival promoters will prefer to get the shittiest fifth rank US Metal band that nobody needed back in 1986 instead of rewarding unknown but dedicated bands of today with the chance of playing their festival. More than once I thought about spreading a fake Elvenpath biography that tricks people into believing we’re from Texas and recorded a cult demo 25 years ago which is so rare that nobody has ever heard it – we would have been all over the festivals by now.
Do you think that all these labels do help because in my opinion most of them play it safe by reissuing old stuff in tons of different versions instead of helping new bands out.
Finally somebody says it! As I already mentioned, a lot of “fans” are only interested in how “cult” a band is and care less about the music. If a band put out a rehearsal tape in the 80s, they must be great, if they’re Americans they must be even greater. People tend to overlook the fact that there is an underground beyond the bands present at Keep It True. And one doesn’t have to look to any small label to find good underground bands – there are plenty who aren’t signed because they refuse to compromise with their music and they’re certainly worth checking out.
Now that the year 2011 comes to an end, which would you state as your favorite releases of the year?
Just to name a few and in alphabetical order: Battlerage – “True Metal victory”, Cult Of The Fox – “A vow of vengeance”, Fairytale – “Rise of the twilight lord”, Fiddler’s Green – “Wall of Folk”, Fireforce – “March on”, Gernotshagen – “Weltenbrand”, Kromlek – “Finis terrae”, Lustkind – “Spieltrieb”, Sign Of The Jackal – “The beyond”,.Soulsteeler – Defenders of “Veleda”. And of course our album, haha.
The band is nothing but original, but that doesn’t seem to bother you, right?
Not really. These days it’s really hard to do something that hasn’t been there before, especially in what might be called Power Metal. Therefore we always focused more on the quality of the music instead of the originality. If somebody tries to find a band that is incomparable to anybody else, he won’t find it on our CD, but if he’s interested in good Heavy Metal, he’ll find some satisfaction here. Nevertheless I believe we’ve developed a few trademarks over the years, for example the lengthy songs with many different guitar parts and harmony solos. This might not be exclusively Elvenpath but it sets us apart from most other bands in my opinion.
I also saw on your website that you play live very often. Describe us a typical ELVENPATH show and name us some shows that have been most memorable for whatever reasons.
We absolutely love playing live, it’s really the very best thing about being in a band. Nowadays you can see a lot of bands on stage that play their music but don’t move around much, not putting much effort into their performances. I’m afraid they forgot that Heavy Metal is purest power and that’s what you get when you go to see Elvenpath. During our gigs we freak out completely, delivering a really dedicated Metal show with plenty of running, headbanging, sweat and mayhem – the music just gets into the blood and we go crazy, it just comes naturally. And we want the audience to freak out the same, banging their heads, screaming along, going wild. If both the band and the audience are completely exhausted after the show, only then it was a good show. We’re not exactly Dream Theater, haha.
As for memorable shows, there are some really carved in our memory for various reasons – sometimes the feeling is just right, the band plays well and the audience is in the mood, this can really make a memorable night. But as this is probably not very satisfying to the readers, let me share a story from a festival we played at in our early days. It started with an accident on the way which fortunately injured nobody but damaged our cars. The festival was good and we got pizza for catering although the schedules didn’t seem to be compatible – every band got their food the moment they had to go on stage. When it was our time I realized I had forgotten our intro CD so we had to start without the intro. In the very first song a string on Michael’s guitar broke and he grabbed his second guitar – only to break a string there shortly later. So he took my second guitar in order to continue but apparently I had made a mistake when changing the strings a few days before – there was a wrong string on that guitar. Well, we somehow got through our set and when removing our gear afterwards the bass amp got damaged in some way. The only thing that was missing was the drummer exploding on stage in true Spinal Tap fashion…but we really enjoyed the day, haha.
What does the future bring for ELVENPATH?
The biggest wish at the moment is a new drummer as currently we have none. Yes, our perennial line up problems…
We now want to play as many shows as possible and prepare the next album which will probably be recorded in 2013. So far we haven’t played much outside of Germany and we hope to change this in the future. Promoters who are reading this: Get in touch and get us to your show!
We simply hope to be able to continue playing the music we love, always improving along the way and making every album better than the previous one. We believe in quality and hope to make it a trademark of our releases. Somebody who buys an Elvenpath album must be sure that he will get top quality in every department. And as we love gigging so much, we’re always hungry for more.
End this interview any way you like.
First I’d like to thank you for your interest in Elvenpath and allowing us this space to present ourselves to your readers. I hope it was an interesting interview for everybody and I’d like to invite everybody who read it all to the bottom to visit our website www.elvenpath.com and look out for our CD’s and gigs.
Furthermore I want to seize this opportunity and appeal to the fans to support the real underground. This is not about attending Keep It True and Headbangers Open Air and praising every US band you can find. The Metal underground is everywhere – even in your town there will certainly be some bands who aren’t given the chance of performing at festivals or a good distribution. Support them, buy their demos, go to their shows, wear their shirts, they need it. Stay Metal!