The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Take 5 With Martin Hanner of Skyfire

While I continue my extended break through the holidays, enjoy this Take 5 chat with bassist Martin Hanner of the Swedish death-symphonic-thrash hybrid, Skyfire...

The Metal Minute: It’s been five years since Skyfire’s had a full-length album for release, albeit you issued Fractal as a download-only EP. The long wait for fans between 2004’s Spectral and this year’s Esoteric has been well worth it. Tell us about the time spent for Skyfire between these albums. Did you feel such a lengthy duration between albums paid off for Esoteric?

Martin Hanner: Well, after Spectral, Jonas and Henrik left the band so we had to find replacements for those guys. Luckily we found Johan Reinholdz and Joakim Karlsson. Another thing that did contribute to why it has taken so long for us to release another album was that our label at the time Arise Records went bankrupt which meant that we had started writing new songs, recorded them and so on. We got contacted by some labels, but in the end we signed to Pivotal and we are very proud to be working with them, they are all great guys. Regarding your last question I think the fact that we had so much time on our hands contributed to make Esoteric a better album than if we had released a record right after Spectral. That said, five years is a little bit too long in my opinion, but even though it has taken some time for us to get back on the scene, I think we have grown both as a band and individuals.

MM: How do you feel the sales of Fractal as a download-only product went for Skyfire? Obviously the times are changing with a force of music distribution aiming towards downloads versus hard copy albums. Esoteric is obviously available as a hard copy CD, but was Fractal a sales success for you guys in your opinion?

MH: I haven’t received any sales figures yet, so I have no idea. There wasn’t really any promotion done for that release because the reason to why we decided to release it in the first place was to give something back to our fans for being so patient while waiting for Esoteric.

MM: The symphonic element to current modes of heavy metal are varied to such latitudes of extremity whether you’re talking about the pop-mindedness of Leaves’ Eyes and Nightwish versus the more aggressive modes such as Dimmu Borgir and yourselves. I applaud the seamless transition of fusing your orchestral samples into the brisk brutality of Esoteric. It’s not often done with such class and frequently comes off as cheesy by lesser-experienced bands and groups looking to rush their samples into their songs for expedience sake. Do you feel there’s a fine art to mixing these symphonic parts into Skyfire’s music some people might not appreciate?

MH: Thanks a lot! Yeah, I definitely feel that a lot of people don’t understand or appreciate these arrangements for what they are, but that’s something that you can never get away from and to be honest, it would be pretty boring if everyone felt the same way about these things. I mean, many people who are into metal hate keys and orchestral arrangements and don’t think these things belong in metal music. But then, they are fans who are really musically gifted and break down the music and notice all the little things in the music that many others not even hear. Personally, those are the fans I like to discuss music with because that’s exactly how we work when we write the music. When we compose we are not just looking for a sound; we really try to make our songs interesting at all times by adding stuff like, for example, a cello and violin working together in order to build up for a transition to a solo. When you listen to our albums, there's a lot pretty much going on and sometimes it’s hard to hear these things, but when we play live and manage to get a good sound, some of these arrangements really come to life and that’s pretty cool.

MM: In my review of Esoteric, I likened the experience to an Heironymous Bosch painting where Skyfire illustrates in music the intertwined relationship between Heaven and Hell, particularly mankind’s perceptions of both. Your music has an ability to take listeners to both planes, frequently within bars of each other. “Under a Pitch Black Sky” would be a good example. Do you feel there’s a Boschian dimension to Skyfire’s music?

MH: Absolutely, and that’s one of my biggest ambitions with Skyfire; to combine and mix these worlds. I love when you mix frenetic, aggressive parts with melodies and atmosphere and I think that is something we have done better on Esoteric than ever before. We have always had the melodies and the bombastic parts but now we have added more aggression and also some more progressive parts. In the future I want to continue to do this and expand the Skyfire spectrum even further.

MM: Music as fast and detailed such as Skyfire’s is being generated all over the world, almost as if in a hurry to compete. Again, I compliment your band for taking your time with Esoteric, but was there any moment along the way of the album’s conception where you might’ve felt a little pressure to finish?

MH: There were times especially in the end where we felt that we had to finish soon because we had kept on pushing back the release date. At the same time we felt that we wanted to be 100% satisfied with the songs. I think it is important with deadlines, but one thing that I have learned through the years is to not set a deadline before you got enough material to record an album. Sure, it’s important to release albums, but there’s no point in releasing something that could've been a hell of a lot better. Plus, you can’t rush inspiration. To write good songs takes time and if you need more time in order to make an album better, so be it.

Copyright 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

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