Alpha Tiger – Establishing IdentityWednesday, 28th January 2015
Iron Maiden and Metallica are certainly responsible for many fans taking their love of heavy metal to new heights. Selling millions of records worldwide and performing for just as many through the years on concert stages, they’ve inspired people to pick up instruments and pursue their own metal desires. Hailing from the north eastern state of Saxony in Germany, Alpha Tiger began in 2007 under the name Satin Black before changing to their current moniker in 2011 – establishing a presence in the power/progressive metal community through their dueling guitar harmonies, adherence to a lot of old school power ethics and topping things off with a vocalist in Stephan Dietrich who melts paint off the walls through his incredible high range (think John Arch or Rick Mythiasin).
Their first two releases may not have made much of an impact in North America, but surely established the band on European soil – as Alpha Tiger would perform at many of the smallest to biggest heavy metal festivals during the prime time summer marketplace. One can tell by their denim, leather, and rising sun imagery that the 1980’s scene fuels their ambition and creativity – but on their third and latest album iDentity, the band is exploring newer horizons to become stellar performers and songwriters to take their style to the next level. Like many of their mentors, this quintet is aware that legacies gain credence by shedding your initial influences and taking risks for longevity – and this album should have the legs to increase their ever growing fan base exponentially.
Hanging on the other line for a conference call is guitarist/main songwriter Peter Langforth, a thoughtful gentlemen who sees no signs of slowing down as Alpha Tiger aim high in a scene feeling a new resurrection in the old school power/progressive metal realm. And if names like Fates Warning (pre-Ray Alder), Riot, and Queensrÿche mean anything to you, be sure to check into this young German outfit.
Dead Rhetoric: What is your personal background like when it comes to discovering music and making the journey up from being a music fan to discovering heavy metal and eventually picking up an instrument to forming band(s)?
Peter Langforth: It was a long process. I started to play the guitar I guess when I was 17. At first it was Dire Straits Brothers in Arms album which brought me to the guitar. I loved the song, and I wanted to be able to play those kind of licks. Later I discovered bands like Metallica, and they were the reason for me to start a heavy metal band. I loved to see the videos of that band, and then came Iron Maiden, those were the first influences for me to play in a heavy metal. From there I discovered Queensrÿche, Riot, Fates Warning, getting deeper and deeper into the stuff.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the early years of Alpha Tiger – did you know right away what type of sound and style you wanted to develop in those early songwriting/rehearsal sessions, especially taking in a lot of influence from power/progressive acts of the 1980’s?
Langforth: We started in 2007 as Satin Black, we started to play Metallica cover songs and things like this. Like every newcomer band, but in 2009 our singer Stephan joined the band and that was at the point where we were able to write way more complex music. He could do all these vocal things that help us become comfortable with a more melodic type of heavy metal, a little bit more progressive as well. That was the most important point when Stephan joined the band, and we then got our first record deal in 2011 with Sonic Attack Records, that was run by the former head of Noise Records Karl Walterbach. He put out great bands in that era like Helloween, Running Wild, Celtic Frost, bands like that. He started his new label and we joined as the first band on that label. He was also our manager as well as our label chief.
Dead Rhetoric: Would you say having Stephan’s high pitched range is quite a separator to Alpha Tiger’s sound? The man can hit ear splitting highs like John Arch and Rick M. from Steel Prophet…
Langforth: Yes, back then in 2009 when he joined the band it was very unique. It was a time when death metal was big in Germany, and metal-core, and no one had a singer like Stephan. It was out of fashion. And also, it was very new for him to sing in this way because he never did it before. He had a classical vocal education but he never tried to sing in a heavy metal style. The high range things would just be warm ups for him, but we listened to this at the rehearsal and to us it sounded like metal screams. We told him that he should work on this and we could bring this into our sound. We could now do all this crazy stuff.
Dead Rhetoric: Now that you’ve had some time to reflect on these two albums, how do you feel about Man or Machine and Beneath the Surface in terms of establishing Alpha Tiger in the scene? Were the critics fair in their assessment of these records? I for one love the circus theme elements in “Against the Time” for instance where during the instrumental section you speed up the tempo and keep the guitar harmonies building…
Langforth: You can hear that our influences came into play on the first two records. Man or Machine definitely had more of an Iron Maiden influence, while Beneath the Surface went into more of a progressive direction like Queensrÿche or Fates Warning. After the first record came out we played some huge shows like Keep It True festival in Germany, Hellfest in France, as well as the Rock Hard Festival in Germany – which helped us get a new record deal with Century Media. In 2013 Beneath the Surface came out and we got the chance to tour Europe with bands like W.A.S.P. and Queensrÿche, and another bunch of huge summer festivals like Wacken, Summer Breeze, all over Europe.
Dead Rhetoric: Your third album iDentity appears to be a huge step up in terms of dynamic songwriting from your first two efforts. What factors led into some of the expansion of ideas in terms of songwriting, harmonies, and hooks?
Langforth: When it came to the songwriting for the first album, I was really deep into 1980’s metal. And when we put out the second record, I wanted to focus a little bit more on a special way so that people couldn’t compare us to bands as easily. Now with this third record I wanted to focus much more on our own personal style. That’s why it was important for me to work on some experiments to deliver our own sound. As a result I think there are more Alpha Tiger elements on here and less Queensrÿche or Fates Warning sounds on this record. So this was the most important part for me.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you tell me a little bit about some of the standout tracks (at least to my ears): “Lady Liberty”, “We Won’t Take It Anymore”, and closing 7 minute plus epic “This World Will Burn”?
Langforth: Sure. We did a lot of experiments on this record, so it was important for me to have a few straight metal songs also to be opposite so people would not be overwhelmed with all these experiments. So that’s where a basic song like “Lady Liberty” comes in, a lot of people knew the song because we released an EP in 2014 that had this song, a limited vinyl edition and we did a music clip for this track. The song includes all the Alpha Tiger ingredients, very typical song for us about freedom and the different years of freedom for people to find in their own way. “We Won’t Take It Anymore” is also a very political song, but it’s a statement against war. I wrote this song while the Ukraine crisis was the main topic in the German media. Every headline was about war, it looked like every day could be the first day of war and it pissed me off. We did a music clip recently one week ago for this track. “This World Will Burn” is more about people who don’t want to fight for their rights and are too lazy to stand up for their rights. There are so many problems in this world because people don’t want to stand up for anything, the government wants to keep them calm so people prefer to watch television or look at their smart phones. They don’t want to fight for the important things in life.
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