Interview with Baldrs Draumar
2019 has been/was an incredible year in music and ended with the release of the album of the year for me in “Magnus” by the always epic Baldrs Draumar. My expectations were pretty high, and they absolutely delivered on every count… heavy, catchy, folky and another successful, fully realized concept album. This is no small feat already producing a massively successful concept album in “Aldgillissoan” from 2015. It also shouldn’t be lost that this album displaced the latest Borknagar and Saor albums from my top of the year list, so you know it is the real deal. Friesland’s favorite sons answered some questions for us regarding the album, the concept, the writing and a bunch of other items….. check it out…..
Congrats on your latest epic “Magnus”, my pick for album of the year….how has the feedback been so far regarding it?
“Thanks! The feedback so far is beyond our imagination. Everybody is really positive about the album and the composition of the songs! We’re sorry to say but we have to go with the cliché that we’ve put out our best album ever. Everything feels really mature and puts the emphasis on our 10 year anniversary. It’s a great compliment when people say to us that we’ve grown as a band.”
Let’s go back to your previous release, the monumental “Fan Fryslâns Ferline” from 2017…. did you have a general direction of what you intended on doing with the next album? Did your ideas change along the way?
“In fact, yes! The funny thing is, whilst working on ‘Fan Fryslâns Ferline’ we already had the concept of Magnus worked out and we were working on the metal songs as we recorded the acoustic ones. Making an acoustic album helped us greatly in song arrangement. So our acoustic and metal path strongly influenced one another. Also, whilst recording Magnus, we already started working on our new concept album…. we are always one or more steps ahead!”
The album is a conceptual work…..could you give us some details on why you choose Magnus Forteman and on the concept of the album as it relates to him? Is it historically accurate or did you take some liberties with the storytelling? Where/how did you gather information to help in the lyrical content of the tracks?
“We chose Magnus Forteman as subject for our newest concept album because we think he is the embodiment of the so called “Frisian Freedom,” which in fact means being free from feudal obligations. The Frisian history is only known to few, the most well-known historical figures being King Rêdbâd (where the album Aldgillissoan is about) and Grutte Pier. We feel that history gets more accessible through key-figures and by using Magnus Forteman as a strong image we hope to kindle people’s curiosity towards Frisian History. The story we tell is mainly build on myths and we worked together with famous historian Han Nijdam on reconstructing the myth and putting it into the right historical context.”
Do the tracks have a different creation process when you are dealing with a concept as opposed to writing non connected tracks? For example, were lyrics more finalized before music? Did you have a set number of tracks in mind to complete the concept?
“Yes, it’s different because when telling a story we try to capture different elements and feelings in our arrangements. When working with concept-albums we first try to come up with the basic storyline, from that we create a tracklist and song titles and write music fitting the general idea of the concept of the song. When the song is finished the lyrics come into place filling and finishing the song. This is roughly how we mostly do it. Of course a song is never finished as long as it’s not recorded and sometimes we introduce new ideas even in the studio, completely changing a song on the spot. So you have to imagine that some bands go nuts because they have to work with a producer, well think again when you are Baldrs Draumar that consists out of 4 producers! It’s inspiring to each other, pointing out one idea usually leads to multiple ideas for the production and there you have your snowball effect. This actually got us to the point where we had over 17 songs for this album. Throughout the years we’ve become a creative well-oiled machine!”
I think that most will be surprised at how heavy and progressive the album is…..do you think you could have written an album like this earlier in your career? Was there any trepidation about how your sound changed potentially with this album?
“Not really, every story we tell is different and we evolve as musicians. With Magnus we were in the perfect spot of combining the hardness of Aldgillissoan with some of the more folky bits of Forfedres Fortellinger. The story of Magnus enabled us to work at an even higher level, also textually. The story is quite violent here and there, but it also tells of rituals, folklore, faith, love etcetera thus making it perfect for a good combination of folk and metal. We also like to challenge ourselves over and again to make sure we do not get to lazy as musicians, this is also why there’s a lot of experimental and progressive influences on the album. You always have to push yourself to your limits when writing new music, learning new things to incorporate into songs and really make something new instead of doing the comfortable tricks you’ve already mastered.”
There are a lot of different and new ideas during the whole album from choral vocals to orchestration parts and so much more….were you really intent on just trying a lot of new ways of making music this time around? Was there also a need to make sure you retained some of your core sound?
“Basically it was a combination of everything we learned so far but better and more. The sound of Magnus is different from the older albums because of the path we walked, releasing also acoustic songs and always playing with the opportunities that the combination of folk and metal holds. We learned to do choral vocals and thus implemented it in for example Ferbline Ferballe because in our eyes it fitted perfectly as the song is about a priest getting his eyes stabbed out. So even though we will keep experimenting in the future, the core sound will always be Furious Frisian Folk.”
Were there any albums or bands that you may have looked at as an influence on what “Magnus” became?
“We all have very different backgrounds varying from heavy metal to hard- and deathcore and from black metal to brutal death. And of course, folk and folk-metal!”
“We do not really have bands we look up to or try to copy, but there are some really good bands that were a source of inspiration to us as musicians. Bands like Wintersun, Moonsorrow and Primordial. Even a Behemoth fan could recognize some of the slower guitar riffs, haha!”
There is an amazing graphic novel available as a companion piece to the album done by Skelte Siweris Braaksma… how did this come about? What input did you have in terms of style/layout etc?
“The cooperation started when Skelte approached us and asked if we could play some (acoustic) tunes at his official presentation of his previous book “Fete”. We then talked and presented the idea of him making a graphical novel for Magnus. The process was very natural, and we were in charge of the overall story and some of the text in the book. We did a back and forth negotiation about style examples we really liked, and he set off and made this beautiful piece of art. Also, everything of the album went into the ‘’cloud’’, sharing it with a bunch of people who were closely involved. So, with every update Skelte had access to the (pre-mixed) songs, how they feel and how they evolved, really giving him the feeling and atmosphere that we wanted to capture not only in our music but also in the graphic novel.”
You also released a video for first single “Toh Alden Fahne”…. how did the process of making the video go? Why did you decide to make this the first single and video?
“It wasn’t that hard to select Toh Alden Fahne for the videoclip. We picked a song that we all liked and that was suitable for a video clip because of its visual potention. Toh Alden Fahne is about the legendary banner of Magnus Forteman he holds in hand leading his army to victory. Something that one can easily visualize. Although it’s a short song it’s very dynamic, it has Folk, fighting, a guitar solo, heavy riffing, atmospheric rituals and heathen chant’s. . So, the song Toh Alden Fahne definitely had to be captured on screen. And with that we’re very glad about the result, adding a whole new dimension to the song.”
“Next up was getting enough people to participate, we did a call to arms on our facebook and there were a lot of reactions, a lot of people even brought in ideas which they would want to contribute to the clip. About 80 people joined in and together we filmed the battle scenes and ritual scenes in one day. We had the Gods on our side because it had been shitty weather for the whole week except on that day. We had a brilliant day that of course ended in eating a lot of food and drinking a lot of beer all together. A lot of memories were made that day for sure. Also, we used one whole day to shoot in Poppodium Iduna in Drachten to make the “live images.” Our secret ingredient in the whole clip was producer Zeb Bulthuis who did an amazing job and is now working on our second clip which will be out soon! This will be a live clip of the song ‘Frij’ we shot during our release show!”
The release show for the album was on November 23rd….. how was the show?
“No words! The venue was packed, and we are still recovering from the party hehe!
From the beginning until the end it was crowded. During a short acoustic show we presented our new album along with the graphical novel to the commissioner of the King, which was an absolute honor to do. Next up all the bands did their best to make the party as big as possible so a big shout out goes to Atmoran, Tsjuster and Vanaheim for their friendship and performance. And then…it was our turn. We played the whole new album with a lot of new visuals and Neushoorn trembled on its very foundation. A lot of Baldrs beers were drowned, some teeth were knocked out, blood and sweat was all over the place and an endless grin showed on our faces, it still does!”
You are also doing Bierfest 4 in a few weeks…. what can we expect there?
“Beer, more beer and beer but then times 4 in a sweaty venue in our hometown.
In all honesty, it’s something we will keep doing forever, this is our homecoming. We invited some friends to join us on the stage. Frisian’s legendary hardcoreband CORNERED and the party-cover-machine Pene Corrida!”
What are your plans for 2020 as far as touring and support of the album?
“First gig of the year will be Wacken Winter Nights, we are very much looking forward to that one. We’re also booked for some festivals in France ,Germany, The Netherlands and such but can’t reveal too much yet. And of course mighty Into The Grave! We are always on the move discovering new shores so just keep an eye on our facebookpage.”
Frisian and Independent
You are still an independent act…. any prospects of signing with a label or are you OK with staying with what has been working so far?
“It’s time consuming but we are OK with how things are at the moment, it’s nice being our own bosses and until we have some good offers things are staying the way it is, Frisian and independent.”
Any favorite music from 2019? What music in 2020 are looking forward to?
“The new Hûnekop album of course! We heard Enslaved was in the studio again, so we are definitely looking forward to that one!”
“Thanks to everybody that supported us in the past ten years! You are the Baldrs Legion and we love you. Leaver Dea As Slaef! We will be around! Tsjoch!”
How you feel now you’ve produced the album of the year for Folk-Metal.nl and how do you feel about achieving this twice with such different albums?
“We are really honored, humble and really really reaaaaaally happy about that fact.”