Hello, Markus. First of all, big congratulations for the 6th album titled “Über Der Sternen”, which was released on 26 February 2021 by Prophecy Productions both on my behalf and as our rock n roll magazine DeliKasap (Crazy Butcher). As far as I followed on Facebook, you were planning to release this album in the fall in 2020. However, for various reasons, it was published in the winter of 2021. Honestly, I think it has been better, even if it’s a little bit late. As you may guess, the people of the planet want to forget the year 2020 due to the pandemic. But, there is still hope for 2021, and Empyrium album has raised that hope even further. How close or how far are “Hope” word and Empyrium? Is there a relation between them?
“Thank you and interesting question to start with. I am not really the right person to proclaim hopefulness to be honest when it comes to my views on society issues – usually I am a pretty pessimistic spirit when it comes to the broader, big picture concerning mankind and these societies created. And to be honest it gets worse every year with the current situation being the peak of the iceberg. However, Empyrium has from its very early stages always been my shelter and refuge to escape this hopelessness and also gives a place not only to me but also to the listeners to forget about all this shit surrounding them and travel to a place of traditional romantic ideals and pure life which is the very core of being a human being.”
What did you experience during the creation of this album? Did it take years? Or did you write in a shorter time?
“The album was finished before the current situation came into being. The only thing left was the mix which I finished in March 2020. We worked on the album for many years on and off. It was quite a journey creating it. In 2019 we focused on really finishing it off and I re-recorded all the Drums in September and finally we did the last recording session in November and December were we recorded all the vocal parts and a little later I recorded the Cello/Violins and Flutes with the guest musicians.”
The opening song of the album “The Three Flames Sapphire”, the 2nd song “A Lucid Tower Beckons on the Hills Afar” and the closing song “Über Der Sternen” which gives the title of the album are actually not very suitable Empyrium songs for the fans who are dying to drown in the ocean of sadness, in my opinion. On the other hand, each is a work of art and magnificent masterpieces. I believe this album as the work of Empyrium’s wisdom and mastery. These songs are as if they were not written in the atmosphere of previous albums. What has changed for Empyrium in your musical career, especially with the participation of different projects in the last 20 years? What has changed for Markus? What are the changes for Thomas? Both aesthetically and philosophically?
“Oh I personally think they are a continuation of our early style just brought into the present. People often don’t realize that I was 16-20 (A wintersunset… – Where at night…) when the early albums were written and when Thomas joined in 1999 and we worked together on Weiland we were 20-22 years old. Now it is more than 20 years later and of course a lot changed in our lives and we are much more mature musicians nowadays and I have produced around 300 albums of other bands in my studio (as some of you might know I work as a music producer and have produced many albums from Alcest to Secrets of the Moon, Silencer, Bethelehem etc etc) so we gained a lot more of experience. Also experiences as a human being. We are both family fathers for instance. The hardest thing is more to maintain the emotional impact in the songs and a somehow naive approach that we had in our earlier works.”
There are eight tracks in the album. Five of them are relatively long and the main Empyrium songs in the album that listeners are familiar with, in my opinion. One of them is shorter but still has vocals. The two songs are relatively short and even instrumental. it’s a good idea to give the listeners an opportunity to deep breathe with “Moonrise” after the first three epic songs. After wandering through mysterious trees in a misty forest, I felt myself resting by the water to watch the moon rise in the songs of “Moonrise” and “In The Morning Mist”. I follow your photography art with great pleasure. You always find nature’s mysterious art and gift it to us. Each one of them is a true work of art. Is there a relationship between photography and your music? How did your photography work contribute to this album?
“The photography is a very important aspect for me for gathering inspiration when I am out in nature. Mostly alone in the very early morning hours or evening hours. Being out there for hours in often beautiful conditions means I come home with not only a lot of beautiful photographs but also a lot of inspiration for new songs and lyrics that I put in my ‘jewelry box of inspiration’ and that I can take out at a later point. So it is very interconnected to my music making.”
The Archer, which follows right after, is a magnificent preparation before the classic Empyrium song “The Wild Swans” that you have kept for your core fans… These two songs approach the sadness, grief, sorrow, eerily mysterious and sometimes nihilistic atmosphere of your pre-2002 songs. It is doom, so to speak. I will ask very clearly. Why should we also be sad in this life and maybe after life, if you believe in it?
“I agree that ‘The Wild Swans’ is very old school Empyrium whilst ‘The Archer’ is more inspired by the Scandinavian Progressive Rock Scene of the early 90s (Landberk, White Willow etc.). Nihilistic, really? I don’t think there’s much place for real nihilism in Empyrium – it’s rather a spiritual approach trying to find the very core of our being. It is about enhancing the human soul by feeding it with romantic art – universally grand emotions, larger than your everyday life. This let’s the soul bloom and blossom. Also I always mention I don’t think Empyrium’s music is depressive at all – there’s always the element of elevation in our music and lyrics. It is about melancholy, nostalgia and pondering about the deep questions of life.”
“Über Der Sternen”s intro is really extraordinary. I can say unearthly, even creepy. And suddenly the song calms down as we would always expect from Empyrium. When the time comes, the song is glowing again in a pitch black forest… Lyrics are German, which is your native language. Immediately I listened to this song, I translated to Turkish. There is another exquisite poem whispering and roaring the struggle of the soul’s ascension. Is “Über Der Sternen” album and the song the most exciting state in Empyrium’s history of spiritual ascension that has been going on since 1994? Should we wait for this to continue?
“Thank you and yes absolutely you hit the nail on the head for this song. This is what I wrote in the liner notes about this song: The epic of the album. It is a journey through the sky at night and its eternal mysteries that unfold before our eyes each time the sun has set. The title of the song has been there many moons before the song was written. It is based around a quote from Friedrich Schiller: ‘Es ist ja noch nicht ausgemacht, ob das Vergangene nicht vergangen ist, oder ein Auge findet über den Sternen.’ I heard this line in the theatre while watching his famous piece “Die Räuber” and it immediately made an impression. Musically a journey through many pieces that paint very detailed pictures before your mind’s eye. The awe-inspiring twinkle of the stars that is to be adored with childlike bewilderedness, the vast and cold, black nothingness of the universe that makes us crouch in fear of the unknown but also the realization that we are small, very small and we have just understood a grain of sand out of the desert that is the wisdom of the all-knowing, eternal universe. The tragedy of the fallacy that we think we are wise and sophisticated. It’s more ridiculous than ever in this time and age. We can be wise as humans indeed but we will always have to submit to our nature – from whence we came – which is to be found somewhere out there between the blackness of the night sky and the light of a star.”
I remember you said in an interview in 2002 that Empyrium completed its mission. Although we, the fans, have a hard time accepting this. No album was released until 2014. During this period, you continued to create music with Tobias Schönemann, we have been enthusiastic with each album, The Vision Bleak, Sun of The Sleepless, which is a great black metal project, and Thomas Helm with your projects in different musical genres such as Noekk, Evigheim. Could you give us any good news about your other projects?
“In Ewigheim I am not involved deeply as a composer – I just add my parts to finished songs. In Noekk, Thomas is the main songwriter and I perform the drums, bass and electric guitars in the studio (being the rock band so to speak…). So current News is: A new Noekk Album will be released later this year – it’s already completely finished so watch out for its announcement and currently I am working on new The Vision Bleak ideas. Hope this album can be finished by the end of the year!”
Which musicians and bands affected you musically and/or lyrically? Are there any names that you see close to your intellectual world, that you want to share with us?
“Most inspiring artists are Dead Can Dance, Darkthrone, Burzum, Bathory, Iron Maiden, Enya, Loreena McKennitt, Landberk, White Willow, The 3rd and the Mortal, This Empty Flow. Just to name a few.”
I think that many young and new bands in different musical genres are in your footsteps, and Empyrium music has influenced them. For example, Swiss Schammasch. Especially nowadays Black metal is no longer made with Satanism figures, which I think is what it should have been. I see Empyrium’s themes in many young bands. Sadness, sorrow, pain, journeys in inner worlds, dialogues with nature, even a hopeful nihilism. In an era of high-level digital communication, did the human loneliness that Empyrium describes in the 1990s win?
“I think Schammasch draw inspiration from other sources but I love their music. In fact I recorded, mixed and mastered their last album so I am very aware of what this band is about. Great band. I think we are more and more in a struggle these days with technocracy versus nature. Man has the idiotic idea of being somewhat outside of (his) nature and being able to control nature which is – I am sorry to say – ridiculous and yet another testimony to his ignorance and hubris. Yeah, we are living in 2021…I think not much has changed since the medieval times of witch hunt and religious oppression and fear mongering.”
You have so many very loyal fans in Turkey. Your last concert was held in Istanbul on September 9th, 2018. After that magnificent concert, we found you in a venue in Istanbul by just guessing completely and we had an opportunity to have a very warm chat almost until the first light of the morning. I hope the pandemic conditions will be ended this year. Are you considering a concert tour for this album? Will we be able to see the Empyrium again in Istanbul, maybe on a tour including Ankara and Izmir? Do you have anything to say to your fans in Turkey?
“That was a nice evening and after show meeting. Vividly remember it! Noone knows right now how the future of live performances will look like in the future so I stopped making any plans to be honest. Just wanna say thank you again to all the turkish fans for the massive support and interest in Empyrium!”
Thank you very much, dear Markus. Of course, greetings to Thomas and other Empyrium musicians from us and Deli Kasap magazine. We hope to see you in Turkey again and we congratulate you for this great album you presented to all fans around globe and even universe!
“Thanks so much for the support! Highly appreciated and the best of regards from Thomas too!”
Empyrium’s 2021 album titled “Über Der Sternen” can be ordered the links below.
Gürkan Haydar Kılıçarslan / DeliKasap Rock And Roll Magazine
Kurtköy – İstanbul / Turkey