THULCANDRA is one of the leading Death / Black Metal bands in Germany and Europe and have managed to capture the spirit of the early and mid 90s and transferred this magic into our time. Their so far three outputs are groundbreaking and each considered for itself is an outstanding piece of art. Some time has passed since the last tour and the hunger for new material made us to reach out to founding member Steffen…
Hello Steffen and welcome to Voices From The Darkside. I have been following THULCANDRA from the first album on and we thought it is finally time to feature THULCANDRA at our site as your creative work speaks for itself. Even though it is tough I would like to dig in the past a bit. Who came up with the idea to found THULCANDRA as you have been involved in OBSCURA already? And was it a concept to honor DISSECTION and the mighty Death / Black scene of the early 90s or has this evolved naturally?
“When we founded OBSCURA in 2002 all kinds of influences have been brought to the table. Channeling our direction into a more progressive and technical direction meant the rather melodic and Black Metal related ideas see small or no place within the bands sound. THULCANDRA was founded in 2003 by OBSCURA members to write music we all grew up with, heavily influenced from Swedish and Norwegian groups at the time, we shared our ideas for twin guitars, raw Black Metal and albums that have been released in the early and mid 90s. Our music developed naturally, and each album contains a quite different vibe and pace. Our last record, “Ascension Lost” turned into a concept driven album with highly aggressive and straight forward rhythms while we aim for a bright dynamic range of the overall compositions. When we started 17 years ago, DISSECTION, UNANIMATED, EUCHARIST, NAGLFAR and many others have been a major influence and they still are. Within this distinctive style comparisons are inevitable. Over the years we built our own musical expression and work coherent and stringent since the beginning. The golden thread of working with Kristian, the Necrolord, Wahlin might be the grand reason for comparisons with a Swedish band called DISSECTION.”
In 2005 you recorded “Perishness Around Us”, which was already a majestic piece of art. Can you recall anything about the recordings? Did you recognize what was going on with Juergen back then?
““Perishness Around Us” contained three full songs and was recorded in a tiny studio next tour our rehearsal room in Landshut, Bavaria. We rehearsed once or twice a week with OBSCURA and THULCANDRA at the time and lived the juvenile life of being teenagers with dreams, passion and pure will to create music far beyond the taste of normal people. We recorded in the line-up Jonas Baumgartl (drums, vocals), Juergen Zintz (guitar) and me handling guitars, bass and vocals. We have been unexperienced in every way while our engineer hasn’t had any practical knowledge how to track Black Metal since his background was more Rock related. Overall, the vibe was positive, and we enjoyed the recordings and outcome alike. Juergen was in trouble regularly and brought trials and tribulations into the fold every now and then. At the time I worked in an asylum and dealt with junkies, insane and mentally ill. One of these days I went to the hospital in the morning and figured the new fixated patient was a fellow face. I saw Juergen crushing his head into a wall until he bled. He didn’t stop until an entire team of caretakers forced him on the ground, pushed him into a solitary cell and anesthetized him for weeks. Juergen lived with a psychosis that was diagnosed as a kid and over the years his medication fostered the abuse of drugs which turned into many troubled episodes in the city. Of course, the drug abuse supported the psychosis in return massively and he went into a downward spiral. I fired him from both OBSCURA and THULCANDRA when he started to take Heroine. Months later we figured he committed suicide while jumping in front of a train. Later, the train driver got hospitalized into the same department as Juergen since it was his 4th suicide he experienced within months.”
Of course, the band was put on hold after Juergen passed away. What lead into the decision to resurrect the project and how did you get together with Tobias Ludwig and Sebastian Ludwig? Did you immediately start to write songs? You got closer to DISSECTION than ever. Was this planned or did it naturally happen? Your cover of ‘The Somberlain’ by the way was brilliant and even the artwork is close to them. But you managed to never sound like a bare copy.
“THULCANDRA went on hold for a while since I focused on OBSCURA where touring and recordings went into a more serious direction at the time. We started to aim for a professional direction and THULCANDRA hasn’t had a fully dedicated line-up anymore. Sebastian Ludwig and Tobias Ludwig attended the same shows in Munich as me and friends from the area visited. The scene was spirited, and we became friends quickly. When I helped as session guitarist for their band HELFAHRT, it turned out we have the same intention when it comes to music and lifestyle. Together we brought THULCANDRA back to life and worked on three full length albums before both left. Tobias Ludwig moved to Bremen in the very North of Germany and Sebastian Ludwig went to Saarbrücken, close to the French border. We lost contact in recent years, but I am grateful for the shared time up to this day. What remains are three records that represent the band in a timeless manner.”
“Fallen Angel’s Dominion” was released in 2010 and I remember getting the CD from Napalm Records and being fascinated by the tunes that enchanted my ears. What do you recall from the recordings and how did you get in touch with Napalm Records to release the album? Normally you are under contract with Relapse as far as I know.
“Recording our debut album has been a wonderful experience. We recruited V. Santura and booked his Woodshed Studio in Southern Germany since he shared the same musical vision as we did at the time. Matthias Landes aka Seraph of DARK FORTRESS joined us to track drums and helped us to develop our sound aesthetic massively. I reached out to a few companies with a pre-production of three tracks, ‘Night Eternal’, ‘Fallen Angel’s Dominion’ and ‘Frozen Kingdom’ if I remember correctly. Napalm Records signed the band right away for a multi-album contract and we collaborate up to the present day. The contract with Relapse Records had a non-exclusive clause, which means the musicians can be involved in projects or other bands. Our debut “Fallen Angel’s Dominion” turned into a highly successful release and on of the best-selling German Black Metal records up to date.”
How was the feeling to finally receive so much attention for the band? Did you play any shows or tours after the first album got released?
“Many interviews, a proper PR campaign and festivals followed and the attention for the band grew a lot. We played a row of festivals but no real tour for the album. Although, we recorded an entire show in Munich with Multicam and professional audio footage which will see the light of day in early 2021.”
“Under A Frozen Sun” was released just one year later in 2011 and featured Seraph as full member on drums. You have perfected your sound on that album for sure and this one got even better reviews and more attention. Can you recall the songwriting process? Did it start straight after the release of the first album and any memories from the recording sessions?
“Our second album was an effort of a collective and Seraph once again joined the band for recordings and our European tour that followed releasing the album. My memories of the four-week tour faded a bit, but the package and routing wasn’t perfect to say the least. The entire experience grinded our nerves a lot and we hoped for a better turnout. Writing the album was joyful and we tried to exceed the boundaries of the scene and what we achieved with our debut already. We included quite harsh and direct Thrash Metal with upbeats and twin guitar harmonies. Also, the technical performance went a level up. Songs like ‘Aeon Of Darkness’ or ‘Echoing Voices’ turned out quite complex with unique arrangements. The production was top notch and “Under A Frozen Sun” surpassed our debut by far when it comes to sound. The recordings once again happened at Woodshed Studio with producer V. Santura and no bigger issues or stories I must tell. I remember being extremely sick for the last vocal recordings. A proper bladder infection let me throw up during the last songs and every scream and phrase felt like a lady kicks your guts and family jewels with full force. We had a deadline to fulfill and I went on tour with OBSCURA a day after, so no excuses have been accepted to postpone our duties.”
Once again you have chosen a blue cover by Necrolord. How did you get in contact with him for the first album and how have you developed the artworks with him for both albums? Was it him delivering a finished picture or how have you worked out the ideas with him?
“We have a close relationship with Kristian, the Necrolord, Wahlin since our debut album and first co-operation in 2008. We delivered ideas, lyrics and some compositions as a pre-production, but eventually you receive a finalized painting in oil with exactly zero revisions possible. Working with an artist is a matter of trust and if you expect hand crafted art, you need to let your thoughts go and wait for the result. Kristian is an essential part of THULCANDRA and with his three artworks delivered, we created a certain aesthetic for the band we follow up in the future as well.”
Your cover of ‘Life Demise’ from UNANIMATED is damn brilliant. “Ancient God Of Evil” is such an important album for me, and I always considered it on the same high level than the DISSECTION twins. Was this an influence for your sound as well?
“Yes, both albums at the time released had a major impact on our writing and the band seems quite underrated within the scene. UNANIMATED are part of the originators and innovators of the Swedish Black and Death Metal genre. Unfortunately, the band never went to play live widely. Aside a few European festivals they never performed on a European tour or beyond.”
You took a longer break then from THULCANDRA. Was this planned or caused by the involvements in other bands and how did you get together to write songs again?
“The reason was simply the worldwide success of OBSCURA and necessary touring schedule that prevented me to get back to write a new album with THULCANDRA. Nothing was planned, I took the opportunity to tour for three years straight before the band calmed down a bit and we started to write songs for our third record “Ascension Lost”. Seraph moved to The Netherlands, built his own studio and went on tour with international touring acts almost at the same time which resulted in less activities with THULCANDRA.”
This time the songs seemed to be a bit tighter even though the concept including the cover concept stayed the same. Also, you took the time to support the band with a headliner tour which received pretty good critics. What is the current status of the band and is there a chance for new material soon?
“For our third album we toured more than ever. We supported SECRETS OF THE MOON, DODHEIMSGARD alongside OUR SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON US within Central Europe, followed by a co-headlining run with NAILED TO OBSCURITY and ended in April 2020 with the longest European tour alongside OBSCURA, GOD DETHRONED and FRACTAL UNIVERSE. Both, Sebastian and Tobias Ludwig, left the band before we hit the road for our own headlining tour in 2017. With M.D. of HARADWAITH and Erebor of SECRETS OF THE MOON and HARADWAITH as well as Christian Kratzer of HAILSTONE, we worked as a strong and experienced line-up together on music and the mentioned live shows. In an accident, Christian Kratzer passed away just weeks after our last concert. At the time we have been working hard on our fourth record which will see a release in 2021. With Christian Kratzer we lost a close friend and talented musician.”
Normally you closed the albums with covers of tracks that have influenced you. This time you decided to finally release the four tracks of “Perishness Around Us” as bonus. What lead into the decision to do this and did you need get in contact with Juergens family to get their permission?
“Those demo tracks haven’t been released to a broader audience and fans asked for the material every now and then. Releasing a single EP didn’t feel right, so we decided with Napalm Records to add the songs as bonus to a limited edition of CDs. I do not have any contact with the family of Juergen Zintz since around 2005. Releasing the old demos was a matter of respect towards the early days and to show our work to the fans without any budgets involved. Around 10 years after the recordings, we finished what we once begun.”
The material really was worth to get released as the tracks are so damn good and a homage to the good old 90s and bands like DISSECTION, EUCHARIST, NAGLFAR and ABLAZE MY SORROW. The tracks were on heavy rotation for weeks in my player. Was it liberating for you and THULCANDRA to finally release this sad and intense chapter of the band and to share Juergens legacy with the world?
“Releasing the tracks should be a gesture of esteem towards the line-up of the early days in general. Those tracks are raw, unpolished and pretty much untreated. This demo would have been buried forever; at the same moment we have fans that are interested in hearing our first steps. I got positive feedback only and we finished this chapter for us, finally.”
We go through hard times currently and there is no end in sight. How is Corona affecting you as musicians? Do you have normal jobs apart from your musical work or are you full-time musicians?
“Within THULCANDRA I am the only full-time musician as of now. We are all affected by these strange times no matter of working in a day-to-day job or as musician. We work on new music; we benefit from the gathered time and channel our ideas in a new album as a collective. When the time is right we will perform live again, until then we see the lockdown as an opportunity to work on each song with attention to details and start recording soon.”
Finally, I thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and feel free to address some last words to our readers…
“Thank you for your interview and effort reaching out to THULCANDRA. It was a pleasure answering your questions since I follow the magazine since the early days and own most of the printed versions. Keep the spirit and watch out for the new THULCANDRA record.”
Photos: Martin Christian Weiss
Interview: Michael Kujawska