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Interview with OLD MOTHER HELL

by Vpower

The Band: Old Mother Hell

Country: Germany

Answers: Bernd (guitar, vocals), Ronny (bass)




On the follow-up to their lauded 2017 self-titled debut, Germany’s OLD MOTHER HELL dig into their roots for a lively collection of pure metal on “Lord Of Demise”. Positive fan reaction and journalistic acclaim followed their debut, with many hailing OLD MOTHER HELL as one of the brightest new German metal bands in recent memory. Now, with their sophomore album it’s time to solidify that good reputation.

Hello guys, you are releasing the follow-up to your 2017 self-titled debut, how do you feel about it?

Bernd: We are thrilled to see all the great reviews and actually also quite relieved that so many people seem to dig it at least as much as the debut.

What has been the evolution of the band since it was created in 2015?

Bernd: Well, line-up-wise there was quite a lot going on in the beginning. The band was started by Ronny, now ex-drummer Ruben and ex-guitarist Robert. I joined as singer at first, but took over guitar as well after Roberts departure in spring 2016. Then came the well received release of our debut, the contact with and later re-release via Cruz Del Sur, some absolutely amazing live shows like Hell Over Hammaburg 6 or Der Detze Rockt VIII, which was amazing to experience.

There has been a change in the lineup with the welcome of Michael Frölich on drums, how was it and what has been Michael’s contribution to the new album?

Bernd: In the middle of all that surprising success in the metal underground, Ruben suddenly decided to take his leave. I was on vacation when he called me and – as well Ronny – was shocked. We didn’t have a clue and had to find a replacement fast because there were shows to play. We were absolutely lucky to find Michi as temporary and finally permanent member, otherwise many shows e.g. the appearance at Hammer of Doom XIII would not have been possible. With the new permanent line-up we finally found the time and energy to finish our sophomore album and are now ready to continue our journey. Of course the change was also accompanied by changes in songwriting as well. Michi is not only a drummer but also plays the guitar very well. He has a lot of great song- and riffing-ideas which add to our songwriting. I am very thankful for that input.

This second album is released not by yourselves as your debut but through Cruz Del Sur Music, how did you make that decision?

Bernd: Well, actually Cruz Del Sur already did the re-release (and vinyl release) of our debut after our first pressing sold out quite fast. Therefor there wasn’t much to decide, because we already knew Enrico (Leccese, the head of Cruz Del Sur) and his label well. We were (and of course still are) thrilled to work with Enrico again. He shows so much dedication for the scene and is such a fair partner in crime that we couldn’t imagine being on another label.

You are veterans of the Mannheim, Germany metal scene since the 1990s and early 2000s, when did you get the idea of starting up OMH and why?

Ronny: I started playing bass in the early 90s and was also active in a prog rock band right from the start. In 2003 we founded the thrash band Hatchery, which disbanded in summer 2014. Immediately afterwards we started Old Mother Hell with the ex-Hatchery members Ruben, Robert and me. The three of us wrote songs and one of the first songs was “Old Mother Hell”. We were inspired by the old heroes like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, but also by bands like Reverend Bizarre, Solstafir or Funeral Mist. Due to Robert we had a certain Black Metal component in the guitar sound, which you can hear in the song “Old Mother Hell”. In 2015 Bernd joined the band as a singer and with this line-up we had our first gig in Ludwigshafen as a 4-member band. Since 2018 we finally have a stable line-up in a classic power trio and the three of us get on very well, on a human as well as a musical level. I hope we can still make music together for a couple of years in this constellation.

Germany is one of the countries with the longest and more productive tradition in Metal music, what is your connection with that history?

Ronny: I am active in the german metal scene since the 90s. Many metal bands have formed in my region, maybe Metal Inquisitor, Abandoned and Mirror Of Deception are one of the longest-serving better-known bands that are still very relevant today. I have a personal relationship with all of the bands mentioned, and friendships have developed over the years because we have met each other again and again at the same festivals and gigs. The Metal Meeting Festival in my hometown Ludwigshafen, which took place annually until the mid-2000s, was legendary. The festival was responsible for my socialization in the metal underground scene. I even performed there with my first thrashband Hatchery and I still regret that this festival is no longer taking place. But we have the 7er Club in Mannheim and some bookers around, who regularly organized many metal concerts until the corona pandemic stopped all live activities. I hope that all small clubs and the bigger venues will survive despite corona restrictions. It’s a disaster for the whole event industry and you don’t know how it will turn out.

You are a power trio, why or how you decided that number would be the best for a band as yours?

Bernd: After Robert left the band it was the easiest way for all of us that I just took over the guitar as well, even though I never wanted to have that double burden of playing guitar while singing ever again. But it worked very well for us and less people meant (and still means) less problems finding dates for rehearsals and shows. We actually tried adding a second guitar once but it felt weird and didn’t sound right, so we scrapped the idea. Nowadays it just feels natural the way it is. For us this is Old Mother Hell and it will almost certainly stay that way.

How long have you worked on your sophomore album “Lord Of Demise” and how was the creative process?

Bernd: A few ideas were already written before Ruben left the band. After that we first had to focus to grow back together as a band, so the writing process came almost to a complete stop. We were caught between finding a suitable drummer, rehearsing for all the great shows and our daily lives. Additionally I moved from Mannheim to Cologne (about a 2.5 hour drive), so our usual approach of writing songs together in the rehearsal room had to be adapted to the new situation as well. Someday – I think it was early 2019 – we decided to step back a little on the live front and to focus more on new songs. We made a plan to record two 4-song demos until the end of 2019. Well, it didn’t completely work out because let’s face it: playing live in front of an ever growing, very supportive audience is just magical, so we couldn’t just stop that. We actually finished recording the last demo song – Shadows Within – a mere week before entering the studio in spring 2020, so a just in time writing process if you think about it.

You took the now rarely-taken step of recording “Lord Of Demise” live, why and how was the result for you?

Bernd: We went for the exact same approach as with the debut, because we were very pleased with how it felt as well how it sounded. Playing together in a huge studio room feels just like playing live. We got feedback from several fans that it sounded as if we were playing live in their living room. This is exactly what we wanted to achieve. You can’t achieve that kind of feeling when recording track by track in our humble opinion.

How has the pandemic helped or complicated the creation of these new songs?

Bernd: The pandemic had no influence on creating the new songs, but it almost prevented us from entering the studio. We were carefully following the news and were hovering between calling off the recording and just pushing through with it on a daily basis. We are all very glad we decided for the latter. Otherwise who knows when the album would have come out.

“Lord Of Demise” includes 8 songs where you play in the field between doom and epic heavy. right?

Ronny: People like to categorize and they love to compare, same like me. But isn’t it far more interesting, if you can’t exactly put a band in an already predefined genre? We have different musical preferences inside the band and all of these different influnces find their way into our songwriting. When you don’t impose too many limits on yourself, you can create something special, something new, although of course we also know that the wheel can no longer be reinvented. Heavy Metal as a whole is so diverse and it is completely sufficient if you also set the limit only for Heavy Metal. You can season extensively. A pinch of Doom, a little more classic Metal, a fine pinch of Black Metal and a teaspoon full of Epic Metal – finished is a cool song, which in the end appeals even more metalheadz than a pure Doom song can. But the whole thing only works if the mixing of the different influences happens inside the band in a natural and authentic way, i.e. not strategically or too cerebrally.

Any special song for you in LOD?

Bernd: For me the most personal and in that regard special song on the album is “Shadows Within”.

What are the lyrics about?

Bernd: The song deals deeply with the topic of depression and anxiety disorder which I suffered from a few years ago. I am quite vocal about that topic since then because it is still way too stigmatized in our society. I was lucky to quickly find a very talented therapist. I think the way many people still downplay this disease is hindering affected people from getting help. They say stuff like “Pull yourself together” instead of trying to understand what is really going on. I hope reading about other people having faced the same shit may help someone to try to get help.

What’s the meaning behind that dark cover art?

Bernd: In short you can say: nature is claiming back her territory. I believe that mankind’s reign will be over in a few hundred years (if it will last that long anyway). Someday mere skeletons of our buildings will remain before even they will crumble to dust. Nature will survive, mankind quite probably won’t or at least there will be way less people living a very different life on earth.

Recently we lost Eddie Van Halen and Rob Halford said that he believes in the good health and future of Metal music, although he doesn’t know if there would ever exist again such big bands as Judas Priest, Black Sabbath… What’s your opinion about this?

Ronny: All bandmembers love metal and especially the good old bands like Savatage, Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden. But we also don’t like living in the past. There are many metalheads who don’t listen to newer bands and their albums. That position is kind of stupid and ignorant. I am tired of people who admire past times because they set themselves a limit in thinking and living. The only thing that matters is the music and the sound, not the big name nor the fame of past success. For sure, no metal band will be as big as in the golden 80s and 90s, but who cares? For me there is enough quality to find in bands like Visigoth, RAM, Sanhedrin, Gatekeeper, Traveler, Night Demon, DOOL, Year of the Goat, Dead Lord, Horisont… only to name a few. And it is fantastic, that old bands like Mirror Of Deception, Satan, Solstice (UK), Angel Witch, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Hammers of Misfortune or Cirith Ungol release really great albums in their late phases over the last years. So as a metal head who lives mostly in present times, trying to support the underground, I have no problem, when bands like Visigoth or Night Demon will headline big festivals instead of Metallica, Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. Of course, one should cherish the old ones and should be thankful for all the classic albums, but not negate and ignore the modern age. Every Era has its own heroes.

Bernd: I don’t think either that there will be “legendary” bands in the future. First way more bands have the opportunity nowadays to record great sounding albums than in former times. So there is way more great material out there. Second the rock and metal revolution is over. You can’t come up with that genre ever again. Third the significance of music in the broader society has waned. There are way more options of entertainment. Just think of streaming movies or playing video games just to name two options. None of this existed when today’s legends were establishing their status. Time for entertainment is limited, but attention spreads to all these new options. This is why I strongly believe that similar huge bands won’t exist in the future.

I agree with both of you. How are you dealing with the pandemic in your country?

Bernd: Like so many other countries in the world we are struggling a lot. People not accepting simple measurements out of pure ignorance and/or stubbornness on one hand, people being absolutely hysteric and overly panicking on the other hand and in between the one’s trying to keep life running in these weird times. We as a band miss playing live, we as fans miss going to concerts and sipping drinks while sweating in front of the stage. To put it short: it sucks big time!

I see it’s more or less the same chaotic situiation everywhere. Thanks for you attention guys and congratulations for your second album, if you wish to add something…

Bernd: Thank you very much. For all the fans out there: Thanks from the bottom of our hearts for all this great support. Stay safe, stay healthy and hopefully we’ll meet again on a stage soon!

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