Hiraes – Awakened ResilienceSunday, 28th January 2024
Storming into the melodic death metal community with their first album in the middle of the pandemic, Hiraes are back for round two with Dormant. Comprised of ex-members from Dawn of Disease and Critical Mess, there’s a veteran pedigree to the aggressive yet melody-driven cuts that border just on the sweet spot of heavy and melodic. We spoke with guitarist Lukas Kerk and vocalist Britta Görtz to get their impressions on the new material, including getting the band out into the live scene and it’s impact on the music, their goals for this year, music videos, and Britta’s lessons learned as a vocal instructor.
Dead Rhetoric: Britta, I know I saw something about flooding issues in your studio recently. How are things?
Britta Görtz: We had like 10 days where we had to go in and pump water out. It was not what I was hoping for at the time! But it’s dry now and we have some industrial fans set up to get the water out of the walls and I think someone is coming over this Sunday to see if there is any mold growing…just as a precaution. But I’m making progress! Thanks for asking!
Dead Rhetoric: Coming out of COVID, how did getting the band out into the live scene help with writing Dormant?
Lukas Kerk: Yeah, definitely! It was really an advantage for us to be out on the road and be together in the tour bus or van and have the opportunity to talk about the songs together. When we wrote and recorded Solitary, we were all at home and talking about the songs through the Internet. That was the only way we could really come together and make decisions. Now we have the opportunity to work on songs together and work through what is the best solution for every song and how to put them together. Even things like what melodies should stay and what melodies should go. It was really great for us to be able to work together on everything on this album.
Dead Rhetoric: How was it, forming the band in isolation, and finally being able to play in front of people? I know you are all experienced, but with a new project in this band, how was it to finally be able to bring the music live?
Görtz: It was such a relief. I don’t want to downtalk the pandemic and the impact it had, but I remember stepping back into the stage for the first time. I was so happy that this whole life – musician’s being on the road – came back. It wasn’t even sure that it would come back for a while. But like, when you are a kid and confined to your room because you did something [laughs], we were finally let out! Then you get all goofy – that’s how it kind of felt. Going to the first show, as an audience member for me, was even more emotional than going on stage. When I got back on stage, I wondered if I could still do it [laughs], and hoping that I wouldn’t fuck it up.
Dead Rhetoric: Outside of those elements, what do you feel separates Dormant from Solitary?
Görtz: There’s so much that we did differently. Lukas is our main songwriter, so he comes up with all of the riffs. For Solitary, I would say the songs that he wrote were almost finished – like 99% finished as far as arrangements go. This time, the songwriting was more open towards the band. More people contributed. We played around with the arrangements more. I think one of the biggest influences on Dormant that we didn’t have was that to play live in front of an audience. We tried to get all of this live energy and collect it into a sponge so we could bring it into the album! Also, being on stage and looking into the audience, just playing into this energy back and forth with the audience, you get a feeling for what clicks and what doesn’t. I think we got more to the core that is Hiraes.
Dead Rhetoric: Hiraes stemmed from essentially Dawn of Disease members with Britta on vocals. Do you feel that with Dormant, you have established more of an individual identity for Hiraes outside of that?
Kerk: Definitely. When we started, we carried off Dawn of Disease into a grave. We never thought of Hiraes as Dawn of Disease with Britta on vocals. So we started something new – of course we had some connections that we were using but we are developing to become a bigger band. We are in the process of trying to find our identity as this new band. Just looking at what we are doing, seeing what works and what we can plan – we have found our own sound and we are continuing to do that with the new record and develop it more in the future.
On a personal level, we really grew as a band in the last year in being on tour together and spending time together. It’s this whole Hiraes identity, and I feel really good about it. We all have the same aims and are working in the same direction. I am really looking forward to everything that will come in the future.
Görtz: I must say that in Hiraes we have a really good chemistry going on. You never know, but it’s a chemistry that carries through not only just the easy-peasy but also through the tougher bumps on the road. That’s a good thing for sure.
Dead Rhetoric: I think it helps that you are all established as musicians. You know what it takes to get yourselves out there and what you need to do. Whereas a younger band might have more of those problems, in the sense of not being ready for the reality of ‘this is what it’s like to be in a touring metal band.’
Görtz: Yeah, maybe. Also, I know when I started playing in bands, I want to say that my work ethic and discipline has been on the better side, but this whole ‘romantic’ band thing where you forget there’s an entire industry behind it [laughs], it has that annoying attachment to you as a band. You have to come to an arrangement about financing everything. Everything costs such a fortune to do. Then you have to be your own bank, and between album’s work your butt off to keep the band going in between albums and get somewhere. That’s definitely something I didn’t think about when I joined my first band.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you say about the “We Owe No One” video. It’s not quite what you’d expect from a melodic death metal band, with the color schemes and so forth, and I think that’s a good thing.
Görtz: With all three videos, we will be putting out the third, and last video of the album [the title track] on the 24th – we shot all three videos in three and a half days in the same spot. So we knew that from the start [laughs] – the goal was to come up with three individual song concepts regarding the look and feel, that are completely different. Which sounds obvious when you shoot in the same room, with the same people, and with the same environment and you have to invent stuff around it. We wanted to show that Hiraes is a versatile band and that we felt these were the cornerstones of the album and why we picked those songs. We wanted to polish the overall song with the visual impression that you would get.
“Through the Storm” was shot through the room so that you have different angles and you look at them in different ways, so it has more of a 3D feel. For “We Owe No One” we only had the frontal shot, so it’s a very 2D feeling at times. It’s a very interesting way of thinking in pictures. It will be completely different for the third video as well. We wanted strong key visuals and we wanted to show the identity of Hiraes and that we are a versatile band.
Kerk: We don’t have three identical videos, they are very different from each other and I think that makes the whole thing interesting. With the video for “We Owe No One,” it’s a more artistic approach to the music. When you think about metal videos, you usually think of a band performing on stage and dragons flying around or something [laughs]. Britta came up with the idea for the video’s style, and to put it into being. I’m really happy with the result. It’s different but still a cool thing that really fits the music, but still not the typical thing you’d expect from a metal video.
Dead Rhetoric: Even the song itself, “We Owe No One,” I found to be unique in that it’s still really heavy, but there’s also a really catchy side to it.
Görtz: It sometimes feels like a song you really want to dance to. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but there is a small pop feeling and it feels really refreshing to do something like that
Dead Rhetoric: Talk about the lyrics this time around. Any songs that stand out for either of you?
Görtz: It’s funny because I am practicing our live set every day, so if you asked me two weeks ago, I probably would have picked different songs [laughs]. The lyrics do not follow a predetermined concept, but all the lyrics were written just like the music was, in a very short time. So it’s kind of like a snapshot of my emotional landscape during that time, which might make it a concept but not an intentional one.
The music comes first in Hiraes, so I listen to the demo in my rehearsal spot and crank up the volume and I just phrase gibberish to it. So I don’t really plan what’s coming out. I try to let out what wants to be let out. If I want to find a word to sum it up, I feel like the overall topic would be resilience. Like when you have learned from past experiences, overcome crises, and you have found your way out of shit. You look back and think, “wow, I was able to overcome this? I was able to get out of that?” You look back on yourself and realize that you were a strong person, even if you felt weak.
This is also why we picked Dormant as a title, because sometimes this strength might be dormant within yourself. You don’t know if you really have it until you need it, then it comes forward and it’s like this life-saving energy. If you look at the cover art, there’s this mountain outside that is the unmovable object, and in the water it’s what lies within and it has this inner glow. So the lyrics for “Dormant” are very special for me and I love singing that song right now. It has such, in a way, it’s very calm but it has an emotional undertone to it. I feel like I am very steady and growing my feet into the floor. I feel very empowered when I sing it and I really hope that we as a band are able to have that spill over into our audience as well. It’s definitely a song that stands out.
Then there is the song “Red Soil.” I will be honest, when we wrote it I wasn’t sure how to vocalize the song, but Lukas did some gibberish lines about food when he did the phrasing [laughs] and now that I’m practicing it, it kind of crawls under my skin. The topic of it might be obvious, but it’s about the topic of war. Luckily I can’t speak from my own experience, but it’s the type of feeling I have when I see people suffering, I see mighty people in power and how they completely lose connection. They just want to rule something and the people just think minute by minute and try to survive.
Dead Rhetoric: Any goals for you this year? Either personally or with the band?
Kerk: I don’t make any goals for the new year [laughs]. But when it comes to Hiraes, of course we want to play live as much as we can. We will kick off our release show and we have a few dates here in Germany. In March, we will continue supporting Dymytry from the Czech Republic and some weekends we will be playing, as well as a few periods in the summer and autumn. We hope to tour as much as possible and want to play some bigger festivals.
A dream that might come true in the future is coming to the United States. It would be really great, but there are some very, very far plans. We hope to someday. But for now we will celebrate the release of our album and hope that people are interested in it and hope to get some positive feedback.
Görtz: I agree with that. I just want to be out on the road and play, play, play. That’s my goal for this year – that and stay healthy!
Dead Rhetoric: Britta I know you are a vocal coach. Speaking as a teacher myself, do you have any learning experiences from students?
Görtz: Every day [laughs]. Every day. Making this transition and becoming a teacher for vocals in the style that I’m singing, it has catapulted me up in my abilities. You know the feeling when students confront you with a question you have never thought of? I look at my students as my inspirational source when it comes to sound and vocal approaches.
Sometimes, I’m really in awe. I get ideas about how the sound could be produced differently or different training techniques. I try to learn from everyone. When you know a lot about something, there’s a chance that you lose that naivety of exploration, so it’s nice to have an anchor to not get caught up in that. I really love this job and love all my students and their creature voices, it’s incredible.
Dead Rhetoric: Lastly, what are your plans for this year?
Kerk: As I was saying, we will play some shows, and hope that there will be some new shows coming up for this year. I also hope we can find some time to work on the third album. When you release an album, it’s really important since you haven’t been doing it for probably a half a year or so and it’s time to create new songs and maybe gain some inspiration from touring and being together, as well as feedback from the fans and press. It’s a great source of inspiration, so I hope I can figure out some cool riffs and we will start working on a new album this year. So I hope for good shows and having a great time together.