Ketzer have made a drastic change in musical direction on their new album ‘Starless’. What inspired such a shift from the rabid thrash aggression to a more dark hard rock style? Was it just a case of evolving naturally or wanting to experiment outside of the restrictive confines of black-thrash? Guitarist Sinner responds; “Actually, we did not even intentionally step away from what you called the ‘confines of black-thrash’. That ‘evolving naturally’ phrase might sound like a cliché but in the end it’s the easiest way to describe it. It started about three years ago, when Marius [aka bass player Necroculto] had an idea for a song that would later become ‘Shaman’s Dance’. We changed the song but it didn’t really feel right until we just jammed together and suddenly the parts all fell together naturally. So this was the moment we noticed that it works really well for us to write songs together by jamming and seeing what happens, which is a very organic way of creating music. The outcome is different than before, but to my ears the expressions and vibes that are being created are still very similar to our other two albums. I especially experience that when we are playing live and the new songs stand side by side with the old ones.”
So how would Sinner describe the music on ‘Starless’, and more importantly is he completely satisfied with how this bold recording turned out?
“I can say that ‘Starless’ still is heavy metal, and it is Ketzer to the core. A consequence from the music being mostly written while jamming are that some elements have a bluesy rock or punk vibe, which is no surprise for me as we have always been big fans of ’70s rock and old punk music.”
As is sadly often the case in this withering world where everyone has an opinion whether we like it or not was that the new material seemed to create a backlash from some of Ketzer’s die-hard fans.
Guitarist Executor has this to say: “I’m not sure if die-hard fan is the right term for someone who spends their time whining on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely okay to dislike our music or even our appearance. What’s not okay is to imply that we wrote ‘Starless’ for commercial reasons, that we aren’t ‘true to our roots’ or any other bullshit like that. We have been working on this record for more than three years and it is part of Ketzer just as much as our other albums. We don’t owe anything to anyone – we are our music and the music is us.”
Do the band have any specific goals with this new direction? Jumping from Iron Bonehead to Metal Blade, are they hoping it will expand their fanbase? Sinner replies; “Of course we are always happy if many people have access to our music and if they enjoy it, that’s even better! But we don’t see making music as a service to anyone than ourselves. The first reactions showed that ‘Starless’ is an album that will have to find it’s audience. It is not an album for the narrow-minded blackthrash scenester, just as it is not an album for the common metalhead. But as time goes by more people ‘get it’ and are able to appreciate it.”
Still aggressive and blackened in the vocal department, which contrasts well with the new musical shift, did Ketzer contemplate adding clean vocals or would that be too much of a change?
“There actually were some clean backing vocals on ‘Endzeit Metropolis’ [their 2012 album], but I guess they were so quiet nobody noticed them,” Sinner laughs. “Back then, and right now, clean vocals are an element that is definitely not disqualified in our music, but only if it really fits the mood and to a particular moment.”
When asked about the inspiration for the album title and cover Executor explains that ‘Starless’ is about the “lack of magic or inspiration within the world we live in today. A handbook for the open-minded, who feel that there is more to life than the cold, hard facts of science or the outdated words of religious institutions. The white cloth wrapped around the head on the cover represents a certain blindness in humankind, may it be voluntary or not. We’re not very keen on giving people any one-way interpretations though. Therefore, that piece of white cloth is also a projection surface for everyone who looks at it.”
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