Night in Gales – Staring into the AbyssWednesday, 22nd July 2020
Momentum and timing are two of the best friends a band can. (Talent is a factor as well.) Germany’s Night in Gales learned this twice in their now-25-year career. Widely regarded as the best Teutonic melodic death metal band, Night in Gales, entered into a prolonged period of inactivity after 2001’s thrashed-up and rocked-out Necrodynamic. The band returned ten years later with the stunning Five Scars, a world-beater of a return-to-form that was quickly nullified by the departure of razor-lunged vocalist Björn Gooßes a year later. Their next studio album wouldn’t arrive until 2018 by way of The Last Sunsets — yet another barn-burner and the first to feature original vocalist Christian Müller. Lo and behold, Night in Gales have stuck to a bi-annual album release schedule with Dawnlight Garden, a visceral affair that may be the band’s most challenging and complex to date, all the while clinging to those glorious Gothen-German melodies. Here to discuss is guitarist and primary songwriter Jens Basten…
Dead Rhetoric: This is the quickest turnaround between studio albums in quite some time for Night in Gales. What can you attribute it to?
Jens Basten: As in 1997-1998, we are since then today again in a good situation. We have a common sight on how the band should sound like, we have a good label contract and a good reputation in the scene. On this basis, a band should be able to release some good albums. We had the opposite situation a while ago. There were too many heads with too many different ideas. That’s solved now, so the motor is running on full speed again.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel you lost a bit of time and/or momentum during the long breaks between both Necrodynamic and Five Scars?
Basten: Well, yes, for sure things went wrong for some period, for many different reasons. And there were times I blamed myself for losing grip on things back then, for not realizing what was really happening with the band and doing the necessary turnaround. But, as we all know, always looking back means not moving forward. We finally managed to reflect and learn from our mistakes to deliver now the strongest outputs ever and continue doing that.
Dead Rhetoric: To that end, is there anything you wished you would have done differently?
Basten: Yes, a lot, ha-ha. But it’s easy to look back now to understand, it wasn’t so clear during things went wrong 20 years ago. The German press handled new national acts like second class, and the scene suffered from too many melodic death releases since around 1998, so we weren’t so confident as today. And of course, no one in the band had any clue of business rules and label-politics, so that made it quite hard to make the right decisions without management you can trust. The biggest mistake from my point of view was to mix up our original melodic death metal with thrash n’ roll and clean vocals within only three years. If you like the early albums, you don’t want the artist to try something completely different all of a sudden on the next ones.
Dead Rhetoric: Dawnlight Garden is your second album with Christian. How has he settled into his role within the band?
Basten: Christian is our former singer; he was in the band since its founding in 1995 and left in 1996. He recorded the Sylphlike demo MCD 1995 and the Razor 7″ EP 1996. So, it was no big deal for him to get back in his shows, even after all those years. His love for old school death metal was still strong, so we were back on track quickly.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you see the new album as a continuation of The Last Sunsets?
Basten: Yes, it was planned to become the next logical step, musical and lyric-wise. When all light has gone, we will gather and remain in the Dawnlight Garden. Every one of us knows his Dawnlight Garden best. To fit the dark and depressive lyrical concept, the music on Dawnlight Garden is a bit heavier and harsher than on The Last Sunsets.
Dead Rhetoric: “Variety” is a word that can be associated with Dawnlight Garden. Each song has its personality. Was that something you were aiming for when songwriting?
Basten: Not really, as this is always a natural process. Nothing is really planned when the writing process starts. So, this time, I just started someday with recording the first song-drafts (now “Beyond the Light” and “The Spectre Dead”). I wasn’t that happy with it at first until Christian visited me one day and listened to the tracks for the first time. He liked the new stuff a lot immediately, so I was confident enough to move on with completing the songwriting for another album. Of course, I always try not to do two or three very similar tracks on an album, but that’s more working like a built-in quality gate, ha-ha.
Dead Rhetoric: Costin’s [Chioreanu] artwork is fantastic. How did you end up working with him? Did he need any direction when creating the cover?
Basten: Indeed, the artwork turned out incredible. He always asks for input before he starts with his work. So, I provided him just the lyrics and music of the title track at the pre-production stage. Nothing else, no basic idea, no color or setting direction. He took his time to get into it and after some weeks, he presented the final artwork. It simply blew us away. He managed to visualize the Dawnlight Garden, as described in the lyrics. Costin is what I would call a “real artist.”
Dead Rhetoric: You hit 25 years as a band this year. Did you celebrate the milestone at all?
Basten: We missed the exact month already, as I remember correctly Sylphlike was released in May 1995. And as we actually still have no chance to do a release party for Dawnlight Garden due to Covid19 restrictions, it turned out difficult to celebrate anything. But we maybe release a 25th-anniversary shirt or something similar soon, let’s see what makes sense during the release of Dawnlight Garden. We definitely will kill some bottles on July 24.
Dead Rhetoric: The late ’90s were your busiest time. What do you remember most about that period?
Basten: Party at home, more party at clubs, more party at shows, a lot of great death metal shows, party at weekends started on Tuesdays…, party in nightliners through Europe, many weeks in studios to record albums, rough times all in all, but funny all the way, maybe too funny ha-ha.
Dead Rhetoric: Has anyone told you that your cover of “Black Velvet” is great? How do you feel about it 20 years later?
Basten: A few people for sure told us, yep. I remember doing a telephone interview for a bigger Canadian radio broadcast. The guy running that show asked me if we talked to Alannah Myles’ manger before asking for permission and offered to get in touch with him. Well, I was definitely not prepared for such questions back then, ha-ha. We did this cover version back then mainly because this AM album was the first vinyl record I bought with my allowance as a kid.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on deck for the rest of 2020?
Basten: Another two weeks of social media promotion until Dawnlight Garden is released 24th July along with a new music video for “Through Dark Decades.” A few more interviews and show offers to coordinate for ’21 afterward. Releasing some more Dawnlight Garden merchandise items, maybe some vinyl re-release of back catalog albums; let’s see what’s possible. Recording final tracks for some cool new OSDM side-projects, writing Gloryful album #5, start writing Night in Gales album #8 later this year.