There are some bands that have their best albums early on in their career and I could spend all day giving you examples of where I can back up that statement. Therefore, it’s very refreshing when a band that is over twenty years old took time through painful rehearsals and studio time to construct songs that would result in the best album of their career in my opinion. Unfortunately for a band to release this good an album this late on in their career is rare, so when it does happen, it hits and it hits hard. One such band that I had the pleasure of reviewing was Germany’s Night In Gales who have recently released their new album The Last Sunsets through Apostasy Records and this is sheer melodic death metal at its very best. I caught up with guitarist Jens Basten and vocalist Christian Muller to talk about the album and how it was created.
Simple things first – where are you guys from and how did you meet?
Chris: We were all born in the Rhine-Ruhr area. Jens and I went to school together and we started with our first project with an age of around 13. Just guitars and growls. After a short period of different bands with local musicians, in ’94 Night In Gales was born finally. Christian Bass (now Heaven Shall Burn), Frank, Jens, Tobias and I were the initial members, all living in the same city. During the years, Adriano replaced Christian Bass and I came back last year.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
Jens: With the new album The Last Sunsets, we returned to our roots. We play pure melodic death metal the old-school way. I don’t think it’s very unique, but as most of the bands who invented this genre quit playing it, people are loving bands who still play the pure shit. And if you are a specialist for this genre, then you will notice that we have our own unique style and some trademarks such as the vocals, the style of playing guitar, the bass arrangements and of course Adriano’s skilled death metal play.
How often is the band able to get together and rehearse and what are the facilities in Cologne like for studios and recording?
Chris: Actually we rehearse in a city called Duisburg. As Adriano is living in the south of Germany, we are not often playing together. We other four try to meet twice a month. The possibility to record albums and to find a good producer is very good in the Rhine-Ruhr Area. It is the hot spot for heavy metal in Germany and therefore a lot of metal-addicted girls & boys are living there.
It is really rare for a band to maintain the majority of its members for the bands career. With pretty much a steady line up since your inception in 1995, what would you say is the secret for keeping the band together?
Chris: As I went out as the first one in 1995, I cannot give you an appropriate answer. But maybe the line-up was stable because I was not in the band?
Jens: We never let the business shit depart us. There were many situations, when it’s possible to blame someone in the band for something and replace him. But we are still more a bunch of good friends than want to be professional musicians. We always tried not to let the silly business destroy us. For example: we had some years without being active, but we never gave in and called our quits in the press. It’s art, you know. It’s not about going to your shitty work. No one has to tell the artist what to do at a time. We decided the day we started the band, we decided when we recorded an album, and only we will decide the day that we might split up.
How were the songs on the new album The Last Sunsets composed? Do all the band members contribute or does one or two of you do the main song writing?
Jens: This time I did the whole song writing as it just came out of my fingers at a point. I could not stop the flow. It was a short period of some days, and most of the tracks were ready and directly in their final form. The lyrics were written 1-2 years later and then arranged on the tracks.
What would be your plans for the band in 2018?
Chris: We will play some cool festival shows and start with the new album in summer as well. As we all have regular full time jobs, family and children we have to plan our activities very carefully. Sounds not like metal, right?
How have the reviews been so far of the new album The Last Sunsets?
Jens: The reviews are the very best we have got for an album ever. The Last Sunsets reached almost 90 – 95% ratings and reached #3 soundcheck positions in Metal Hammer Germany, #7 in Legacy Magazine and #10 in Rock Hard magazine, which is an amazing result for a band of our status.
Chris: Until now, the reviews are completely awesome. We haven’t expected the reactions we are currently receiving from the fans and the press. The complete album guitar tracks were recorded in one and a half days, while the lead guitars that you hear are the initial recorded tracks of the album pre-production. Adriano recorded the whole drums without anyone from us to guide him, within 4 hours. I was in the studio for one weekend, after years of inactivity. We hadn’t rehearsed before the recordings. Maybe that’s the reason why the album sounds quite refreshing to a lot of people.
I recently interviewed the legend that is Dan Swano about the mixing and mastering side of the business. How was your experience working with Dan and would it be something you would do again?
Jens: The Last Sunsets was the 4th album that I did with him (two Gloryful albums, and the 2011er NIG-album Five Scars). It’s always a great experience working with him, as he simply knows how the shit should sound like. As he is a multi-instrumentalist, you don’t have problems with volume issues on some of the instruments/channels. He did so many important metal and for sure black and death metal albums, that you can rely on him. You know, you could send him all the tracks to mix, and during the night the upload is completed. After a couple of days, you got his first mix in the mail and this first try is always already very close to the final product!
The most important point for me is not that the basics are all in place very fast, it’s more about the setting of the details: the whole volume editing, effect-loops, reverb and delay settings, boosting single specials like drum fills, special ideas to make some songs more outstanding, putting the lead guitars in the right place and sound, all those little bits can cost you easily 10 extra days and you’ll become crazy and impatient if the guy doesn’t understand what the album really needs and what you were talking about for days. That’s the major win if you work with Dan, it’s all about understanding heavy metal. And he is the coolest and most down to earth friendly guy you can meet in this scene, a fact that makes every production with him a funny and pleasant experience.
How hard is it for an extreme metal band like Night In Gales to survive in the current climate where bands have to tour non stop in order to bring money back into the band?
Chris: The band is not a job for us. We have all the freedom to do want we want and how we want to do it. We don’t have the ambition to be professional and that’s the reason why we really enjoy the reactions on our new album without freaking out.
One of the many highlights for my review of the new album was the imaginative, emotional and melancholic riffs by the Basten brothers. The riffs on the title track for example are just supreme musicianship. Is it quite easy for the brothers to generate riffs from each other or is one more old school than the other and a lot of the riffs thrown away?
Jens: Thank you! Well, the song writing process changed through the last 22 years quite a lot. In the beginning in 1994 there was a lot more natural collaboration between Frank, Tobias and me, i.e. we all threw in a bunch of melodies and riffs and in a second step I tried to get the pieces together in the best possible way. From album to album this process changed more and more direction a more up-to-date and more efficient way of composing. We don’t spend that much time together creating new ideas, nor are we jamming just for fun. Today, I record all ideas directly in my good old Cubase SX home recording setup and add the drums via midi programming with some good sounding Andy Sneap and Meshuggah drum samples. Most of the tracks on The Last Sunsets were composed that way and within about an hour for each song.
Another highlight was the rhythm section of drummer Adriano and bassist Tobias. You would not realise that this is only the second album working together, such is the bond of strength that they have. How has their partnership grown in this time in your eyes?
Jens: Well, it’s all about having a good chemistry within the band. Adriano joined NIG in 2005, and we did many shows and rehearsals after that. And it’s of course the rather simple but effective arrangements, that makes it sound so good. The whole album is not that overproduced. It’s recorded quite rough and in a very short time, to keep that natural groove/feeling that you mentioned.
Finally, we have the return of original vocalist Christian Muller for this album after being away from the band for over ten years. I really thought he did a sterling job throughout the whole of the album. Did this inspire the band to return to its roots and bring the youthful energy back to the band?
Chris: Thank you very much. But I had no influence on the song writing. Jens prepared everything in advance.
Jens: Indeed, I wrote the music and lyrics and also arranged the vocals. But it’s so important that I did all that having a strong vision of the final result in mind, knowing how Christians´voice would sound like on the tracks.
On the subject of vocalists, you had three guest appearances namely Christian Mertens (Dark Millennium), Martin Matzak (Torchure) and Marc Grewe (Morgoth). What was the decision to have the guest vocalists and how was it working with them?
Jens: The idea just came piece by piece. I first met Martin (Torchure) on a Gloryful show in summer 2014 and asked him if he’d like to do some growls on the next NIG album and he agreed directly. After that we thought about who else could add some cool guest vocals, so we contacted Marc and Christian, and they agreed as well after they listened the pre-production. We have chosen all German old school death metal singers to make a little statement, of course. We are proud having them on our comeback album, they represent the best days of death metal, the early 90’s.
I wish you every success with the album release show on the 23rd Feb. Will there be plans to tour further afield or is the day job and money standing against that just now?
Chris: Unfortunately we had to cancel our release show. Two of us were ill. But we will plan a new show asap. Currently we don’t have any plans to tour. I’m the show stopper in the band, my vacations are planned to take care of my child. And to take some extra free time from the job is not easy for us all. Not only because of the money but also because some of us have a position which doesn’t allow us to be off for example, three weeks.
A fun question to end this interview. If you were a DJ and were allowed to bring 5 CDs to the party, what would they be?
Chris: 1. Strapping Young Lad – City / 2. Slayer – Undisputed Attitude / 3. NOFX – Ribbed / 4. The Exploited – Beat The Bastards / 5. Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast
Jens: 1. Guns n’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction 2. Impaled Nazarene – Urga Karma 3. Love/Hate – Blackout In The Red Room 4. Thin Lizzy – Johnny The Fox 5. Bad Religion – Suffer
Any last message for our readers here at Moshville Times?
Chris: Thank you all for reading this interview. And we appreciate all clicks, likes, whatever on Youtube & Facebook. And feel free to leave a comment.
Jens: If you like to support the band, check out our bandcamp store where you can get all new official merchandise, rare, old and new vinyl’s, patches and more.