We don’t cover a lot of technical death metal here at the Vault. I’ll be honest – that’s mostly because none of us really like it very much. I mean, I can appreciate the technical skill it takes to pull off the vast majority of that kind of music, but chops alone are not enough – you need to be able to write a damn song as well.
And that’s what sets Alkalod apart from pretty much all of their peers. First of all, consider the band’s lineup:
Morean (Dark Fortress, Nader Sadek (live), Noneuclid) – vocals & guitar
Christian Münzner (ex-Spawn of Possession, ex-Obscura, ex-Defeated Sanity, ex-Necrophagist) – guitar
Danny Tunker (Abhorrent, Demilich (live), ex-Aborted, ex-Spawn of Possession (live), ex-God Dethroned)- guitar
Linus Klausenitzer (Obscura, Noneuclid) – bass
Hannes Grossmann (Blotted Science, Nader Sadek (live), ex-Obscura, ex-Necrophagist) – drums
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Alkaloid is likely the single most talented collection of metal musicians ever assembled in one band. And as far as their songwriting goes, I can guarantee that you’ve never heard an album like The Malkuth Grimoire before. There’s never been an album like this before. Technical, progressive, jazz fusiony, pile all of the sub-genre modifiers on it that you want, the bottom line is that these five musicians have pushed the boundaries of metal so far with their songwriting that ‘Alkaloid metal’ should probably just be a genre unto itself.
Originally released independently by the band back in 2015, The Malkuth Grimoire recently saw vinyl release from Season of Mist. As they gear up to release its follow up in May, drummer Hannes Grossmann was good enough to answer a few questions for me via email about the album and the future of the band.
IMV: Hey, so thanks for agreeing to an interview. I’ve been digging on The Malkuth Grimoire since it came out in March of 2015, so it’s great to see it get picked up by Season of Mist for a vinyl release. How did that deal come together? If I remember correctly, you originally crowdfunded the album on Indegogo, right? Was that from a disinterest on Alkaloid’s part in signing to a label, or the result of labels being hesitant to release a tech-death album as boundary-pushing and trippy as The Malkuth Grimoire?
Hannes Grossmann: We wanted to work with a label at first but then decided that it makes more sense for us to address our fans directly. We value our fanbase a lot and they are very enthusiastic. Also we wanted to prove to ourselves that there is demand for obscure tech metal such as ours. Considering we didn’t have a big label to back us, the response was just overwhelming. Things now got too big to fully handle it ourselves, so it’s a logical step to sign with a label. We’re more than happy to work with Season Of Mist because they do focus a lot on quality. You can see that when looking at the gatefold LP of The Malkuth Grimoire. It looks amazing!
IMV: So as I referenced in the previous question, it’s been almost three years since The Malkuth Grimoire was originally released. That’s quite a bit of time to live with an album. Have your feelings towards to changed at all over the last three years?
HG: I still love what we did on The Malkuth Grimoire, it aged very well indeed. But of course we’ve progressed as a band, and I’m sure you’ll be able to hear that when our next album drops.
IMV: One of the things that I really love about The Malkuth Grimoire is something I alluded to in that first question – this record completely pushes against the boundaries of technical death metal, even three years after its initial release. I’m familiar with a lot of the bands that Alkaloid’s members are/were in (Obscura, Spawn of Possession, Necrophagist, Defeated Sanity, Blotted Science, Nader Sadek, Demilich, etc.), and while I certainly hear elements of many of those bands in Alkaloid’s sound, I hear a lot of other influences as well. Honestly, opener “Carbon Phrases” reminds me a bit of Yes in terms of the guitar sound and the vocals. Was the goal with Alkaloid from the start to basically be the proggiest of the prog, or was that something that evolved over the course of the songwriting process?
HG: The goal definitely wasn’t to impress musicians, haha. We just wanted to make an album we’d love to listen to featuring all of the stuff we’re into. This included a big prog influence. YES are a big influence on our sound, especially the album 90125. But we don’t write songs that way, we just use ideas that feel exciting to us. Mostly that comes by itself without focusing on any outside influences.
IMV: One thing I’ve always been curious about in terms of the album is how conceptual it is. “Malkuth” comes from the Kabbalah and means “Kingdom,” right? And grimoires are magical texts, most frequently associated with the supernatural and/or spellcasting. That makes for something of a strange juxtaposition. Then add in the Lovecraft-referencing “Cthulhu,” and there’s a pretty wide variety of lyrical inspirations at work. Should the album be experienced in terms of some sort of thematic continuity, or is each track a separate entity?
HG: Each track is a separate entity, it’s not a conceptual album where all songs connect to one story. But the album title also reflects the common playground for various topics featured on this album. So I guess there is some kind of thematic continuity going on as well. It’s so to speak a conceptual album with different chapters.
IMV: Okay, so let’s pull back a bit from the minutiae from the last few questions. How exactly did Alkaloid come together? It seems like everyone in the band has played with at least one other member in at least one other project (if not more) previous to coming together as Alkaloid, but what ultimately was the impetus for coming together as Alkaloid?
HG: Yes, that’s exactly how it went. We worked together in various projects and at a certain point it just made sense to get together as a new musical entity. Also we were kinda unhappy with the ways our previous bands took. We all felt like being limited to one specific sub-genre that we couldn’t break out of. So it was logical to form this new band and having no musical limitations whatsoever. Most of Alkaloid’s music, and even more so on our upcoming record, wouldn’t have been accepted in any of our previous bands.
IMV: There are two questions I tend to ask most bands I interview. The first is a gear question, and I’m definitely curious about everyone’s rigs when the band was recording The Malkuth Grimoire. On the whole, it’s a much warmer, earthier-sounding album than what a lot of contemporary technical/progressive death metal bands opt for, with a much wider variety of guitar and bass tones. Where did you record The Malkuth Grimoire, and what did everyone’s rigs look like during that process?
HG: We recorded the album in my own studio called MORDOR SOUNDS. I do a lot of mixes and productions myself. For guitars – believe it or not – we just used the AXE FX II by Fractal Audio. It was just the easiest way to get all the different guitar sounds we wanted. I do like real tube amps better, but given the variety of sounds featured on the album, I just found it the easiest way to use the AXE FX this time. We focused very much on a natural drum sound, and having V.Santura to mix the album this was no problem. He’s just great at producing organic sounding drums. For bass we used both fretless and fretted bass guitars. For bass amp we used the Ampeg SVT 7.
IMV: The other thing that I generally like to ask about is the art for any given album, and the cover of The Malkuth Grimoire is pretty striking. Who did the cover art, and how closely did the band work with that artist on the cover concept?
HG: The artwork was done by German photographer Christian Martin Weiss, who is an exceptional artist. We did an intense photo session with him and he used those photos for the cover. Actually it’s our singer Morean on the cover. We don’t like the typical computer generated images a lot of metal bands use these days and we agreed that photography it the best way to visualize our music.
IMV: So what does the future look like for Alkaloid? Are there any plans to either tour or work on new music in the immediate future?
HG: We just finished our new album, which will be released in May on Season Of Mist. More details will follow soon. We’re very excited, the new album is even more diverse than The Malkuth Grimoire and will be quite a surprise to many people. Of course we want to play live and tour as much as we can for the new album.
IMV: Okay, I saved this until the penultimate question, but since you and Christian Münzer have both been in Necrophagist, I feel an obligation to ask the same question that probably gets asked of anyone who has ever been even tangentially associated with that band: do you think Necrophagist will ever release new music?
HG: Honestly, I absolutely have no idea. I haven’t spoken with anyone in that band since 2007.
IMV: Thank you for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to save the last word for the artists – anything else you’d like to add?
HG: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about Alkaloid. And also thanks to everyone for the massive support. Last, I have just a little personal note: please feel free to check out my recording studio’s website at mordorsounds.com. I’m very proud to not only be Alkaloid’s drummer, but also be the band’s sound engineer. Studio work is my favorite thing in the world and I’d like to share that with you.