Baltimore’s finest: Isenmor
Baltimore Maryland USA’s Isenmor are about to release their debut EP “Land Of The Setting Sun”. With a combination of thrash and some good old folk and traditional touches along with the metal, the Isenmor boys are ready to take over. A few of the guys chimed in on some of questions regarding the EP, the recording process and some of their summer touring plans…..
Congratulations of “Land Of The Setting Sun” which has been in my heavy rotation for a while now…..have you gotten some feedback prior to its release (June 21st)?
Nick: We have gotten a few reviews already (thanks for yours by the way), and have a few more expected before the release. Feedback has been mostly positive, so we’re pretty happy about that.
Mike: The feedback has been really great, both in terms of praise and honest criticism of things we could improve on. Overall, we’ve been very pleased so far.
2 of the 5 songs on the EP (“Death Is A Fine Companion” and “So Willingly Deceived”) were released previously…..why did you feel it was necessary to include them here and re-record them?
Nick: The two recordings released previously were a rough demo so we could have something recorded to show people. We had no intention of portraying them as an official release, and felt we should record everything for the EP together.
The 3 newer tracks (“Pyre”, “Land Of the Setting Sun” and “The Old Mead Hall”) definitely show a progression in writing and performance…how did these songs come about? Do you hear or feel a progression in your songwriting?
Nick: Funnily enough, “Land of the Setting Sun” is actually the first original song that we wrote to completion. There was some overlap in writing all of these, and I think the only one not finished at the time the demo was recorded was “Pyre.” We chose “Death is a Fine Companion” and “So Willingly Deceived” because they were the two furthest extremes of what we had written at the time. With that said, I do feel like we are getting better as songwriters, and the newer material is getting better at melding those two extremes together within one overall sound.
Did you consider recording an entire album as opposed to an EP? Is there enough material in the Isenmor catalog to put together a proper LP?
Nick: We did consider an entire album, but decided it would be best to release an EP first and then work on a full length. We do have quite a bit already written to go on the full length, and you can expect that to contain all new material.
Mike: We’re planning on debuting some of our new material at our live shows this summer.
How was the recording process for the EP? Any highlights or issues?
Nick: Long. We’ve got some studio diary videos going up on our. One of them is a highlight reel of me fucking up a solo many, many times.
Tim: The drums were done in no time. Our drummer, BG, came in and killed it. Seven songs in one day. I wasn’t used to working with such an efficient drummer. Despite that, the EP did take longer to record than I expected. Mike and I both did the tracking, and neither of us had any experience recording acoustic violins. (On the demo, Nick used an electric violin.) So we had that hurdle to get over. Then of course Miles and Nick have pretty tricky parts in some places that need to fit well together. I felt like Stanley Kubrick at times asking for more re-takes of some passages. But in the end, I think we got what we needed.
The Isenmor sound has a very traditional influence with the inclusion of dual violins played by Nick and Miles….how did this configuration materialize? Is it one of those situations where “If one is good, two is better?”
Tim: Originally I had expected to just get one violinist. When two violinists responded to my ad, Mike and I decided to go ahead and give them both a shot, especially when it turned out they are both extremely skilled musicians. Nick suggested we cover “In My Sword I Trust” by Ensiferum, which just so happens to have a twin-lead guitar part throughout, so it was easy to transfer those to violins. The first time we played that song together, we all knew immediately this setup could work.
How does the songwriting take place is the Isenmor camp? Does everyone bring ideas to the table to work on or does someone like Tim (Vox/Guitar) or Michael (Bass/Vox) bring the basic structure or idea and then it is worked on?
Nick: For the most part it is me, Mike, and Tim putting ideas in, and working with or off each other’s ideas until we get a finished song. Tim and Mike are the more experienced songwriters, so they definitely have been doing a lot more with turning the ideas into complete songs.
Mike: After we hash out the complete song, we’ll typically demo the song and play it in practice a few times. We may add or subtract a few parts, and other band members will contribute here as well. I like to think that Tim, Nick, and I have a lot of complementary songwriting tendencies, so when the three of us contribute, the result is a pretty varied, dynamic song.
As a 6 piece (Isenmor is rounded out by Jon on keys and BG on drums) how do prioritize the instrumentation placement in the songs? Are there places in the tracks where you have to re-evaluate as it may be too busy or not enough?
Nick: This is certainly an issue when writing. We like to make the most of having many members, including multiple vocalists, but we know that sometimes simpler is better. Finding the balance of when to include certain elements or not is a challenge, but I think we are getting better at it.
Also by having 6 members it must create situations where things like practicing and shows are hard to get everyone together. How do you communicate and make things work? How do your personal lives affect Isenmor either positively or negatively?
Nick: We certainly do have problems with this, though for the most part members are pretty good with making time for shows and practice. As far as personal lives interfering, the only major factor since we started was Tim having to go and secure his legacy.
Tim: So far, we haven’t had any big issues when it comes to scheduling shows. People might miss a practice here or there, but they are ridiculed mercilessly for it. I just sleep less than ever now.
Mike: One interesting thing about us is that the age range in Isenmor is pretty wide, from 17 to 31. This makes for some interesting coordination at times. Scheduling conflicts range from high school finals to business travel. However, like Tim and Nick have said, everyone’s been pretty good about practices and playing shows.
I recently reviewed the epic new Sekengard EP and it is easy to want to compare the two of you as you both hail from Baltimore…what do you think your similarities or differences are? Is there such a thing as a “Baltimore folk Metal sound”? If so, what is it?
Nick: We’ve done a few shows with Sekengard, I feel like they have a bit more upbeat approach than we do, but I’d like to get a chance to listen to their EP before I make too many comparisons. I suppose the biggest difference I’m aware of is thematic rather than musical. They are influenced by multiple cultures as well as fantasy, while we stick with Germanic mythology and history.
Tim: I think the difference is clear at the merch table. They sell shot glasses, we sell pint glasses. If you put them together, it’s going to be awesome, but you’re going to feel horrible the next day.
What other bands are out there in the Baltimore area Folk Metal scene?
Nick: Dogs and Day Drinkers are kind of folky.
Tim: Dogs & Day Drinkers call themselves “power folk metal.” They can be folk metal-ish or power metal-ish. I’m not really sure how to describe them.
It is inevitable that music gets out on the web for everyone to hear….does it matter if you “make money” doing this or is it not a concern? What are your feelings on downloading music in general?
Nick: I wasn’t aware there was a possibility for us to make money to begin with.
Mike: I’m not working a full time job for nothing.
Tim: Financially, we aim to at least break even when it comes to expenses. Anything extra we make just gets re-invested into the band. I would prefer the revenue we generate from the music and the merch completely finances new music and new merch. If we have to keep pumping our own cash into the band, money becomes the limiting factor and it slows the whole process down. So it’s important to support independent bands.
It seems like you have a busy schedule this summer/fall as far as performing live…what are some of the highlight dates/shows?
Nick: We’re looking forward to the Pocono Folk Metal Festival and Baltimore Folk Fest.
Tim: In addition to the fests Nick mentioned, I’m pumped for the big opening slots we have with Helsott on July 11 in Frederick, MD and Arkona on October 2 in Baltimore, MD.
Favorite albums of 2014/2015 thus far?
Tim: I’m into the new Nightwish and most of the new Ensiferum album. The new Heidevolk is sitting on my desk await me to repeatedly listen to it. And I’m still very much into the latest Iced Earth album, Plagues of Babylon.
Mike: Come to our shows and admire my beard.
Tim: Just some shameless shilling: Land of the Setting Sun is available for pre-order at isenmor.bandcamp.com! We also have a package deal with the CD version of the EP (including an Ensiferum and an Eluveitie cover), an Isenmor shirt, and an Isenmor pint glass (for beering).