Interview with Vanaheim
Dutch metalband Vanaheim released their first full length album ‘Een Verloren Verhaal’. As the title shows they made a switch to Dutch for their lyrics. Overall this album is a huge step forward and they pulled it off without losing their identity. And there are more nice things with Vanaheim… The guys are all very involved and they all took the time to answer our questions.
Blood, Sweat and Tears
Congratulations with your latest release ‘ Een verloren Verhaal’. This album is so much more then the first EP. But we’ll come back to that later. How was the album received so far?
Mike: “Thank you very much! The feedback that we got so far from old and new fans is absolutely overwhelming for us. We actually couldn’t have hoped for a better reception! People seem to love the album through and through and many of them tell us that they compare our new album to the ones of bands that we have always looked up to in the sense of songwriting and album production. This is basically the best compliment you can give to an ambitious band like us. It shows that all the blood, sweat and tears we have put in this album were absolutely worth it!”
Tilburg is quite famous for it’s metal culture. Can you tell us a bit more about how Vanaheim started?
Bram: “It actually all started with Nick Roovers who brought us together. He knew me, Zino, and three other members that are no longer in the band. From there we started to write some songs for the EP and some that have only been played live. Mike has been there almost from the beginning as well. Michael joined in 2017 and around that time Nick parted ways from Vanaheim. We have been with this line up ever since, and worked on “Een Verloren Verhaal” for all that time.”
The Early Years
What was it like in the early days, To me it seemed, you guys really hit it off from the start. What can you tell us about that.
Bram: “We’ve actually played the same setlist for a long time, but we couldn’t really get bored of it. It was really great to see how many places we have been with this EP, given we had only three songs and a couple that will never be recorded. In fact, we played the same setlist from 2016 up to Covid hit. However, as we live quite some time apart (1 to 4 hours by car) we are always blessed to be together and play, so we already feel very energized on and off stage. I think we have been carrying out this message at every single show and this helped us tremendously.”
Without losing the identity of the band you guys managed to evolve immensely since the first EP ‘The House Spirit’. What happened here, was this caused by the small changes in the line-up or was it something else.
Zino: “In all our personal lives many things happened. Familymembers passing away, new jobs, Corona, studying and changing studies, finding love, and of course all the experiences we did with Vanaheim so far. Many of these events were somehow embedded in the music. With the House Spirit EP we have been able to experiment with what works and what doesn’t. Also, Michael joined Vanaheim which brought fresh air in the songwriting proces. His view and background of former bands heavily influenced “Een Verloren Verhaal”. Furthermore we all grew on personal and musical levels. Musically, we decided that we all wanted to really give our very bests this time. We pushed eachother to the extremes concerning our instrumental parts, orchestrating. and other recordings. We also needed to undertake a huge personal growth to be able to bare all the stress and unfortunaties we also faced in the past four years. We all have our weaknesses and strengths, and we learned how to put everything in place so that we were able to make create the oiled machine team we are now.”
Did the covid period help to complete this ‘up-date’ of the band or was it just a burden?
Michael: “COVID has actually been kind of a blessing for us while working on the album because it gave us much more time to prepare and go even deeper in the details (maybe a bit to much). Without the entire COVID Pandemic I think we would’ve not been finished by now. We’re not making it a secret that the album process has been with a lot of pitfalls. I think we all just really underestimated how much time and effort an album of this scope and production would cost us. It also doesn’t help that we just had very high standards and all knew exactly what we wanted to achieve on this album. We’re used to working remotely and through Skype because at this point the band is split between 3 countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Germany) but at a certain point we did not see Mike for 1.5 years and some parts of working on an album is just so much more nice to do when you can all sit in a room together but still we had to work with the material we had at that point.”
Among the great improvements is the change to Dutch for the vocals is striking. What made you decide to do this and how do you feel about it, now the album is released.
Zino:”We figured out that this time, the theme of the album should be much more close to our home and heart. One of the first changes we made is that we decided to write the lyrics in Dutch. “I speak enough English to make myself intelligable, but to poetically express myself i’m not getting anything meaningful on paper in English. People would notice that English lyrics would have lacked meaningful depth. I also find the Dutch language beautiful. It took some time before it became the language we speak today. The heavy sounds it makes, definitely in my region of the country, harsh “g’s” or roling “R’s” suit the magical feeling of our music perfectly. Our language also knows great, and funny expressions of earlier times, which are still accurate today. Especially Bram and me tend to use them in many conversations.”
Bram: “Zino was the member to pitch the Dutch lyrics for this album, and it took some time to make the decision. The main reason to do it is that we had the feeling that there would be more expression in the music when Zino can write and sing in his mother tongue. However, we did arrange translations for a reason, because we are also aware that perhaps only 10% or less can understand Dutch. So intensifying the emotion is really what counted on the music that we wanted to create.”
Can you tell us a bit more about the stories on this album. And why the title is ‘Een Verloren Verhaal’.
Zino: “The title “Een Verloren Verhaal” translates to a lost, or forgotten tale. I’m going to try to give a summary of the story, but as you ask for the story I want people to know what it is all about!
The album is about a village in the mountains, in a big forest. The people who built it built it primarily out of necessity, but they soon became obsessed with wealth, expansion, and above all,
power. You could say they figured out they could do anything they wanted. Chopping infinite trees, making fires and killing much more animals for food then they can eat. For some years this continues, until the point where mother earth, or the matriarch as we call her in the story, creates
an end to the destructive behavior of the villagers. She carves a horde of giants out of stone and sends them to the village to restore the balance. But as wel all know the people are stubborn and don’t listen. So finally, they are all whiped out. All of them? No. One girl remains, who will eventually found a new village. Her story turns into myth, and the myth into legend. The question is if people will ever learn to handle the forest and nature with respect.<br>Further more the album goes about side stories of other characters that live in or around the forest. On our website we have official translations for our lyrics, where you can read more about it.
Of course the album makes a parallel to the world as we know it today. Many people treat our planet like it’s theirs to ruïn it, and they leave their mess for the next generation. Sometimes
nature also strikes back, in the form of mudflows, earthquakes, huricanes or big floods. The power of nature cannot be underestimated. We used giants as the executive power of mother nature, instead of natural disasters.
Another big improvement is are the violin and female vocals of Rikki Linssen. How did this come about.
Michael: “Little correction! Rikke did all solo violin and solo alto violin parts on the album but most of the Female vocals / choirs were actually done by Creia Wraith. Rikke was already known to Zino because of her band Pyrolisis and we kinda just asked her if she was interested and she was super hyped to help us play these parts on the album. We warned her before that some of the parts would be very complicated but she nailed every single part and every single note perfectly! The working process with Rikke was also very easy, I just prepared the recording projects and the written partition and send it to her, one week later I would have these epic violin parts in my mailbox.”
She’s appears as a guest on the album and will be playing live as well. Why isn’t she a full band-member?
Michael: “Rikke is a very busy bee with multiple bands (Pyrolisis, Sowulo). We are constantly in contact with Rikke and share our band agenda with her so if there is a gig where she is available she will be sure to join us on stage. We’re still talking in the band how we would like to shape the future of Vanaheim as a 4-piece or 5-piece band but Rikke would make a great addition to the band on a musical and personal level.”
What did all these changes mean for the production process?
Mike: “They actually ment a lot! We wanted to step up our game big
time with this album. That comes with a lot of work, responsibility and costs. “Een Verloren Verhaal” as you can hear and see it now has involved over 30 people working on it and I think it is fair to say that without all of these fantastic people, this album would have not been the same and we are incredibly thankful for everyone that has spent energy and time in this album! Working with over 30 people needs a lot of coordination to get things done step by step. We really had to completely reshape our writing, production and releasing process. We put the band and our ways of approaching things upside down to make it work. Every bandmember went over the personal limits to make the album what it is now. It was very hard at times but we learned a lot during the process and for the next album we definitely know many things better!”
How is it to organise all this by yourselves? And are you looking for a label to support the band at certain aspects?
Mike: “To be honest… it is a curse and a blessing at once. Doing everything yourself actually gives you the freedom to fully shape the album like you want to have it. The bad thing on the other side is that everything really costs a lot of time, effort and dedication which means that if you do not have the determined will to create something outstanding and unique and you do not have people that support you in many ways, it is simply not possible to do an album like “Een Verloren Verhaal” or it will cost you at least 10 years to finish it. Nevertheless we are absolutely proud about ourselves and what we have achieved with this release.
We could definintely use some help here and there in the sense of distribution, promotion and booking for example. We can do these things on our own but it costs us useful time that we could spend with creating new music!”
If you have the chance, would you jump on a tour with a band or some bands to tour through Europe?
Mike: “What a question! Of course we would, we want to conquer the world to say the least! We want to spread our album everywhere and what better way could there be than doing live shows. We love playing live because it is an important part of our being as a band. On stage we always have so much fun and enjoy it to the fullest! In the end we want to present and show what Dutch Epic Folk Metal has to offer. ;)”
Is there anything else you like to say to our readers?
Mike: “First of all we want to thank Folk-Metal.nl for the interview and the review about our new album. Then again we want to thank everyone that made this album possible and of course our lovely fans that support us where they can, without you we wouldn’t be here in the first place.
Last but not least. You can’t imagine how hungry we are to present our new album and to finally bring the story of “Een Verloren Verhaal” to life! Better prepare yourself beause Vanaheim is coming for you!”
Bram: “We hope to see you all live as soon as we can! In the meantime, it would be great if you would take the time to enjoy the music and the story in a cosy place, while having a nice drink to get completely taken into the story.”
Michael: “We hope to see everyone live as soon as it’s possible. Also make sure out the many other great releases that are coming out this year, a lot of quality Folk-Metal is coming!”
Zino: “We cannot wait to party with you!”