Heidevolk – Forest SongsWednesday, 24th June 2015
Of the folk metal bands, Heidevolk crafted their own identity due to two big factors. The most obvious is their dual vocalist harmonies that create a sense of beauty (which is enhanced by the music). They also sing in their native Dutch tongue. It’s this approach that has brought them an almost instantly recognizable status within the metal scene. They’ve slowly gained more traction, and back in 2013 the band toured North America for the first time. But soon after, they lost one of their original vocalists, Joris Boghtdrincker.
The band’s latest, Velua, is the first to feature new vocalist Lars NachtBraecker. It’s a logical progression for the band from their previous effort, Batavi, and the vocal switcheroo has definitely not set the band back. We sent some questions of the electronic variety over to the band, and vocalist Lars NachtBraecker and bassist Rowan Roodbaert were kind enough to catch us up on the vocalist change, the band’s recent experiences on the road, and all things Velua.
Dead Rhetoric: You recently finished the Paganfest 2015 tour, any fun stories from the road?
Lars NachtBraecker: Well, Kevin split his eyebrow when the trajectory of his head (whilst head banging) crossed paths with a beer bottle that was being held by Joost, he needed stitches. Also, Rowan broke his foot but didn’t know it was broken, so he finished the tour on a broken foot. We had a really good time partying with Obscurity and Frostide in our bus quickly dubbed “the Party Bus”. We had decorated the bus with streamers and stuff, playing and singing along with ’80s hair -metal, rock and of course Steel Panther.
Dead Rhetoric: Moving back to 2013, Joris Boghtdrincker left the band right after the Paganfest America tour. How long in advance did you know that this was coming?
Rowan Roodbaert: It was something that was growing for a while. None of us knew when this would happen (I don’t think Joris did either). The North American tour was his way to conclude and to close the book on Heidevolk I guess. It wasn’t you guys hahaha, no worries. The North American tour was amazing!
Dead Rhetoric: Part of Heidevolk’s sound has always been having two singers. Were you worried about finding a replacement that would mesh just as well for the band?
Roodbaert: Of course it was a challenge to find a new voice that would combine well with Marks’ but we know that there are more people out there who can. It was also a good thing to grasp this opportunity to find someone that could bring us a new set of skills and ideas. So no real worries, just curious on where this would take us.
Dead Rhetoric: What made Lars NachtBraecker the ideal choice for the band?
NachtBraecker: I brought an ice-bucket with bottles of special beers from my home town. As soon as they saw that they were like “You’re in”. They also asked me over for an evening of drinking with the band, you know to see if I’m a good or a bad drunk.
Roodbaert: Hahaha! The beer was nice but when he started singing we were convinced Lars was our guy. His voice can be raw and deep but also clear in both the high- and low-end. Something that not only works well with our older songs but his wide range of vocals create a lot of possibilities, or “working space” if you will, for new songs. On a personal level he fits well into the group! So yeah, a good choice indeed!
Dead Rhetoric: Initially, I heard Velua was going to be called Heidevolk. Why’d you decide against a self-titled effort?
NachtBraecker: It was? Nobody told me!
Roodbaert: Hey…what? This is classified information. You have to be at least security level 99 to know this. Hahaha. The answer is simple: “Velua” covered the contents of this album, so we went with that.
Dead Rhetoric: How does Velua compare to the rest of Heidevolk’s discography?
NachtBraecker: A bit more melodic I think. While a lot of the older albums, especially Batavi, had more songs about battles (both in Midgard and the other realms) this album is more about stories and legends. You can also hear this in the tone of the songs.
Dead Rhetoric: Velua was described as a “storybook” of tales from the Veluwe. Could you explain some of the stories within the album?
NachtBraecker: All of the stories on this album take place in the biggest woodland area of The Netherlands, in the province of Gelderland called “De Veluwe”. The old name for “De Veluwe” is Velua, hence the name of the album. I’ll explain a few of the stories here but there’s an explanation in English for each of the stories in the cd booklet.
“Herboren in Vlammen” (Reborn in Flames) is about a man called Gloeiende Gerrit (Glowing Gary?) who burned down the house of a newlywed couple out of jealousy, burning the couple alive. Gerrit was then cursed to burst into flames and runs across the heathlands each night.
“Urth” is about one of the Norns (mythical creatures) who weaves the threads of life and descides about the fate of every individual. If she cuts your thread, you’re gone from this world.
“Richting de Wievenbelter” is about a man who runs into some spectres called “De Witte Wieven” (The White Women) who are made up of fog or myst. They lure people into the swamp, drowning and burying them after which the forest returns to normal and no sign of the corpse or its grave is ever to be seen.
“Velua” is about De Veluwe seen through the eyes of a raven who flies over it. It describes the dense forests, heathlands, sandy planes, the wildlife and the life and hardships of the people who live in it.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you explain the concept behind the “Winter Woede” video you recently released?
NachtBraecker: “Winter Woede” is about an ex-soldier who turns to robbing people for his survival. It was inspired by a region in The Veluwe called Planken Wambuis (lit. Wooden Straightjacket -> coffin) which was notoriously dangerous part of the woods due to gangs of robbers. The video follows the life of this soldier who is left to his own devices after the war. You see him hunting at first and later, when the bounty of hunting is insufficient for his survival, he starts robbing the rich. He’s attacked by soldiers or guards and a gang of robbers jump in to save his life. He is then initiated into this gang.
Dead Rhetoric: The song “Vinland” was the first that you’ve done in English. Was this a one-time thing?
NachtBraecker: Heidevolk sings in Dutch. That’s our main thing. “Vinland” was written as a tribute to Heidevolk’s time across the ocean during the previous American tour. It made sense to do that song in English. Perhaps we’ll do songs (partially) in different languages when the story of the song calls for it, but in the end we’re a Dutch language band.
Dead Rhetoric: There are three bonus cover songs (Led Zeppelin, Billy Idol, and The Nits). How’d you go about deciding what songs would make a good Heidevolk cover?
Roodbaert: The vibe of the songs mostly. We started playing cover songs during rehearsals in 2013 to focus on playing as a band. It turned out that some of these covers translated well into the Heidevolk style. And c’mon, everybody wants to cover “Rebel Yell.”
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel draws metal fans in particular, towards folk music?
NachtBraecker: I think a lot of metal fans are interested in the old ways (of how people used to live) and see it as an escape from the humdrum lives most of us live these days.
Dead Rhetoric: The band has had a few injuries lately. What are you guys doing out there on tour?
NachtBraecker: Well I guess when you combine alcohol with us it tends to lead to small mishaps like these. Actually, I think Rowan was sober when he broke his foot. He jumped on a platform and landed the wrong way. When Kevin parties, he parties hard so I guess something was bound to happen there.
Dead Rhetoric: What will the rest of 2015 bring for Heidevolk?
NachtBraecker: This year we’ll be promoting Velua. We did the Paganfest tour, we’ve booked some festivals and we’ll be hitting North America in September. Then there is the line-up change due to the departure of Mark (vocals) and Reamon (guitar). They left this spring, both of them couldn’t really combine their jobs with the band and that took its toll on both themselves as the band. Although reluctant to let them go we accept their decision and wish them all the best. We’ll be doing the rest of the shows this year with our Paganfest lineup which has Jacco (from Conorach) on vocals and Kevin Storm (from Autumn) on guitar. We’re very excited to be doing a U.S. tour in September.