Iron Fire – Falling HigherThursday, 25th August 2016
Having achieved the rather commendable goal of 20-plus years as a band, Denmark’s Iron Fire apparently aren’t too keen on resting on their laurels. While a good chunk of the band’s previous output was planted firmly in melodic power metal territory, their new Among the Dead (Crime Records) finds the band exploring late ‘90s melodic metal, in particular, Helloween’s Better than Raw, Iced Earth’s The Dark Sagan, and Rage’s Black in Mind. Now, Among the Dead is hardly a composite of the above three, but the muscle, penchant for soaring choruses, and beefy production job certainly recall the brief moment of time when the fluff was taken out of power metal.
Be that as it may, we snagged drummer Gunnar Olsen for a round of Q’s, several of which focusing on the band’s recent departure from Napalm Records, as well as their start on the legendary Noise Records. Read on and learn something new…
Dead Rhetoric: You were on Napalm for quite some time. Was it simply time to move on?
Gunnar Olsen: The story about Napalm is long and twisted, and at the end of the day it was time to split. The company did twist our arms a few times; just like we’re not necessarily the easiest band to work with, considering our experimental tendencies. If somebody wants to label you one thing, and you don’t want to wear that label, even though it might be the initial foundation for your career, there will of course be some clashes. We might still have been on Napalm if we didn’t hesitate to sign the last contract they sent us. However, we have now moved on, and is now in more control of our music, so even though we liked working with Napalm, we feel better this way.
Dead Rhetoric: You were initially signed by Noise Records. What do you remember about being with them?
Olsen: I don’t remember much about Noise, besides that it really seemed like they could have done more for us. At least they had the means to do so. However, we were young and inexperienced, and really expected everything to be served for us on a silver plate. However, they actually seemed very interested in our music from the very beginning. They met up with us a few times, and did gave us some amount of freedom to experiment. But they knew that the record business was about to change, so they cleaned out their closet – so to speak. I mean Noise was kind of big business, and [owner] Karl Walterbach was definitely a businessman, who knew how far to go, whom to sign, and when to let go. But he must have had some kind of interest and faith in the band, because as he let us know, that he wouldn’t miss another Blind Guardian. And when we met him at a hotel in Copenhagen, he really started out to sort of twisting our arm, telling us that we’d probably couldn’t get another deal if we lost this deal. If that was usually the case, might be true, however, the future releases of Iron Fire proved him wrong.
Dead Rhetoric: At this point, how much importance does a label play in your career?
Olsen: Well, a label is funding—basically—and additional people to help you with the administrative side of being a record-making band. So it is, of course, very important, even though there’s not really of lot of money to get anymore, now that people stopped paying for music. But we are really happy on Crime Records, where we are in real close cooperation with the company, and in full artistic control. But, of course, the flipside of being in charge and playing with the investor’s money is, that there’s more pressure on you as a band, cause if you do not deliver, the investors lose faith and stop investing, and in these times it’s kind of hanging in the balance.
Dead Rhetoric: As for Among the Dead, what made you reference albums like Dark Saga, Better than Raw, etc? They’re not usually name-dropped as influences…
Olsen: Albums like Dark Saga, Black in Mind and Better than Raw were really our main influences when we started Iron Fire in the late nineties, and with Among the Dead we really wanted to go back to those albums and make something, that captured the spirit of those releases. But actually, we could name more albums as influences, but those were the ones with the greatest impact on us, in the long run that is. Back then we would also listen much to bands like Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian and Stratovarius. But looking back the only albums from back then that really stood the test of time was albums like Better Than Raw and Dark Saga.
Dead Rhetoric: The line of “no bullshit metal” is great, and it’s reflected across the new album. Is there any formula when putting together songs?
Olsen: No, there’s not really any formula for writing a great song. It’s really about letting yourself go, just open up and see what comes out. And basically you should just play out your initial feeling, not thinking too much about other stuff…no bullshit… However, making a cohesive album takes a special mood, so you should not write if you’re not in the mood for it. Real art cannot be forced into making…
Dead Rhetoric: Obviously, the metal scene is quite different from when you started 20 years ago. What do you miss about the “old” metal scene?
Olsen: A lot of things. I miss the budgets, obviously. You could really make better albums back then, and better albums were made. Today everything just sound the same. But back then, a new album was a new thing—it sounded different than other albums, and gave new inspiration to make other things. Also it’s too easy today to make music, because of all the helping means. There’s too much computer stuff going on, and the human touch just vanished. Creativity today is just playing with a computer, which gives you so many opportunities. But everybody’s got those opportunities, and somehow everybody end up sounding like fifty shades of brown. It’s not wrong, it’s just boring. Twenty years ago it was a big thing getting a record deal, and there was really a difference from the signed bands to those without a deal. Getting a record deal was usually a quality stamp. Today everybody’s getting heard – which could have been good – but isn’t. Most bands could really use some self-reflection, along with idols participants and not least the so called music fans, who think that music can keep on coming, even though they literally steal the music.
Dead Rhetoric: On the flipside, what do you like most about the current metal scene?
Olsen: Well…I like that crossover music seems to be more acceptable to make. To be melodic and aggressive at the same time is fully accepted by more and more people. About the opportunities with technology, I’m really ambivalent on that matter. I like the fact that Martin can make music in Norway and send it to us in Copenhagen, so that we can rehearse it without him. But what can be used can also be abused…
Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s on your agenda for the rest of 2016?
Olsen: We have to release Among the Dead in September, and we will play some live shows to the release parties that we throw. One in Copenhagen and one in Skien. Also we have finished filming our new video that will be out just before the release.