Warkings – Quest for the Dark SorceressThursday, 27th October 2022
Wasting no time creating another record, international power metal band Warkings bring a sense of reverie, strong imagery, heralding ancient warrior times through their material. Morgana is the fourth album in their catalog – introducing a new member to the group with Morgana le Fay that provides an extreme, growling contrast to the conventional clean, melodic voice of The Tribune. Have no fear, the natural power metal musical proceedings still remain a staple of the group – along with legendary stories of… well, war-related themes, battles, and adventures.
We spoke with The Viking on Zoom recently to catch up on the unintended quick turnaround for this record, how they gained Morgana le Fay into the mix, video/album artwork, thoughts on their strong imagery and how it also influences their audiences to join in the proceedings, plus plenty of future touring talk.
Dead Rhetoric: Morgana is the fourth Warkings album in five years for the international group. Did the global pandemic and lack of touring/festival opportunities allow the musicians the chance to dig deeper into the creative well for a new record so quickly – and how do you assess this set of material compared to the previous discography?
The Viking: That’s a good question. Like you said, we released our last album Revolution in the summer, and we were ready to go on tour, play a lot of concerts. Once again everything got shut down, so we were sitting around and didn’t know what to do. We were really angry, frustrated, and not really in a good mood. We didn’t want to write any songs. Before you know it, you get into trouble, fight with each other, we started throwing around ideas. The mood was a little bit darker, and we were a little more aggressive, so that is how this album developed.
Dead Rhetoric: And how does that affect the songwriting process? Did you have to change things around because of the pandemic, or do you enjoy working on the process remotely and trading files through the internet?
The Viking: We do the back-and-forth thing. When it comes to the actual songwriting, we have the studio in Hamburg with our producer. We meet there and put the songs together there, record them. We’ve done this before with Revolution in the midst of the pandemic, we had to do the same thing with Morgana.
Dead Rhetoric: Vocalist Morgana le Fay joins as a guest on four of the songs. How did you discover her work, and can you discuss the contrasts/abilities she provides next to the normal power metal proceedings?
The Viking: We heard about her. We thought about… we had the Queen of the Damned in the past, and the first idea was to find someone who could sing the old songs with us live on stage. We found her, she has a great personality, and she fits really well into the band. We started writing songs and using her aggressive vocals. We love the contrast between the clean, melodic voice of our singer and these harsh vocals. It really fit the mood of the songs to have these vocals be a part of the mix. We still play power metal, even if there are death metal parts in terms of the vocals at times. I think it’s an interesting concept to have both of these voices in this power metal context.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell me about the cover art idea – is it something you work out ahead with the artist, or do they have free reign to create something based on the material you present to them?
The Viking: Actually, we tell him the title and what’s the concept… all the songs with Morgana, she sings about the relationship between Morgana Le Fay the dark sorceress and King Arthur, her half-brother. That’s what we tell the artist, he’s Hungarian. Don’t ask me to pronounce his name, I can’t (laughs). Gyula Havancsák. We just tell him the title, the story behind the title, and he’s free to go. He comes in with the ideas, he gives us some sketches, and this is what we can do. We pick one together, and he proceeds from then on. We just tell him the frame, and it’s all his doing. We have this warrior on every cover, it’s like the Warkings warrior – a mascot of sorts. We both agree between the band and the artist to put this on the cover again. Everything else is his ideas – he’s very talented, we really love the cover.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the video shoot for “Monsters” – as it seems like Warkings through your imagery, lyrical concepts, and music are able to really use the visual medium as a perfect platform to spread the word about the band?
The Viking: Yes. The video “Monsters” tells the story about the quest of the Warkings, to find Morgana. She was dead and buried, and we went on the quest to find her. You can see in the video that we brought her back to life. It’s always good to tell these stories. We want to do something special with the videos. We try to fit the song into the video – we wanted to create this small four-minute movie, which is very challenging. It was very hot days when we shot these videos, there were a lot of different locations. This is what we want to do, and it turned out really good.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you enjoy the strong imagery that the band has developed over the years – taking on different characters compared to how you are as people in real life?
The Viking: (laughs). Yes, of course. When it comes to Warkings, this is what we are. We are four kings; these are our personalities. This is what we are on stage, and when it comes to the band. You can step into that world and hop on that ride with us. We enjoy it very, very much.
Dead Rhetoric: Are there times you see audience members also taking on that character role and dressing up like the musicians to celebrate the music when it comes to live shows?
The Viking: Yes. We have had that a lot. We had a small tour with Gloryhammer in June and July, there were often some people who came with special armor or leather parts, all that stuff. It’s funny, when we played the Summer Breeze Festival, we had a guy who came in a banana costume, in the first row. I think that guy with the banana costume is very famous, he’s from the US. I have seen him in a lot of pictures with a lot of different bands. I saw him with the band Nothingmore, the singer from that band showed him with a guy in that banana costume, it was the same guy. I think he’s more famous than we are! (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: How did the ideas come about to record covers of Powerwolf and Dragonforce as bonus tracks for the album? Has the band always admired the discography of these two veteran acts in the power metal realm?
The Viking: Yeah, first of all we’ve been friends with Powerwolf for a very long time. We’ve known them and get along with them quite well, we’ve always loved their music. We are going on tour with them in three weeks, and Dragonforce is on that tour as well. Planning tours takes a very long time, we’ve been talking about this tour for over two years. The tour was supposed to happen last year in October, and then it got cancelled again. They still asked if we wanted to be with them, and we were very happy to do this. We chose those two songs as kind of a tribute to those bands. Let’s take two songs, give them the Warkings twist, make them in our style.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been a part of the Napalm Records roster since the start of the group. What do you enjoy most working with this record label – do you believe they have the proper staffing and understanding of what Warkings is all about as a band to promote you properly on a global scale?
The Viking: Actually, I know it’s normal that most bands say bad things about their label, but we are really happy with them. They are with us since the beginning, and also the people who work with us are nearly the same people who started with us, which is not very common nowadays. Especially in the music business, these people can change very fast. They support the band in every way they can. I think it’s one of the last big independent labels in the metal scene, that’s not been bought by any big company. They stand on their own, and we are really happy with what they do.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges that Warkings faces at this point in your career?
The Viking: It sounds boring, the costs for touring have gone up. Everything blows up, it doesn’t sound special but when you organize a tour – the costs for the bus, the (gas), and everything. And also, the pandemic brought us a crew, we have people working for us, and a lot of people changed their jobs during the pandemic. It’s harder to find crew people that will work with us. To find a bus was a big challenge – we didn’t have a bus until three weeks ago. Most companies are fully booked for one or two years now. These are big challenges, not very rock star like, but the pandemic brought about a lot of problems. And also, the war in the Ukraine, the (gas) prices in Europe are so high.
Dead Rhetoric: Hasn’t another issue for bands been the pressing plants struggling to keep up with vinyl demand in a timely fashion for album releases?
The Viking: This is one of the points though that’s also very good with Napalm because they have a good connection with some of these companies who do the vinyl. Actually, they are building their own factory now where they can produce their own vinyl and CDs now. That was never an issue for us. We were talking to the label about that this time, will we get all the stuff at the same time for the release – and everything is ready to be shipped out at the same time.
Dead Rhetoric: What has heavy metal meant to you as a genre personally?
The Viking: For me, the metal genre as a whole with all the different styles, I love a lot of different bands from the melodic acts to a lot of deathcore stuff. There is so much emotion, so much variety, you can express your feelings in so many different ways. Metal is great for that. In metal you can find what you are looking for, for sure. That’s what I love about this music – there are no boundaries.
Dead Rhetoric: You were able to play some festivals in 2022 – what was it like to finally have Warkings back playing live on stage, how was the reception, and do you believe that there is a newfound appreciation and respect for bands that was taken for granted before the pandemic?
The Viking: We had some really big festivals this summer, and we were able to play some of them. Summer Breeze, Alcatraz in Belgium. It was really awesome. Especially the Summer Breeze festival, we played on the first day, the first band to go up on stage at half past eleven in the morning. We didn’t expect many people to be there, you can look it up on our Instagram or Facebook pages, the place was packed. Everybody was having a good time. You can feel that the people are really happy to be back on festival grounds, you can be with one another and enjoy the music together. I really think that a lot of people were happy. It was gone for two years, and nobody expected this would be happening again.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Warkings over the next year or so to support the album?
The Viking: We will do this tour with Powerwolf for twenty shows. We have another tour coming in April- May 2023, which is mostly Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with Feuerschwanz. Our booking agency is working on setting up for the festival season, we have a couple of shows already set up for next year. We have talks about doing our own headlining tour for October-November of 2023. This is the schedule we are working on right now. The one thing that we don’t want to do is to be working on another record. It was all due to the pandemic, we wrote songs and put records out. It felt like I’ve been in the studio for three years in a row. The plan for the next twelve months is to play as many shows as possible. We are looking around talking to other bands about touring. There are plans for coming over to the US. We can plan more stuff again.