THE TWELVE WORKS OF SUIDAKRA INCLUDING ‘REALMS OF ODORIC’ REVIEW AND EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
First Published 21 May 2016
SuidAkrA are about to release their twelfth studio album and despite this extensive back catalogue which contains many excellent works as well as having embarked on numerous European tours, three Indian tours, five North American plus South American and Chinese tours, they’re still pretty much an unknown quantity in Great Britain so let’s try and put that right.
SuidAkrA hail from Düsseldorf, Germany and started out as Gloryfication, recording one demo, ‘XIII’ in 1994. Later in 1994 they changed their name to SuidAkrA and followed up ‘XIII’ with the ‘Dawn’ demo in 1995. Their lyrical and musical concept is primarily about Celtic history and mythology which is present on all of their albums apart from ‘Realms Of Odoric’ which I have reviewed in full below. The band state Celtic Metal as their genre but that is to simplify it too much as there are many other elements present in their work. This is a very unique band who should not be “pigeon-holed”.
Each of the twelve studio albums are unique and individual and are so wildly varied that you can’t just put them in one category. We’ll take a look at all twelve works below and you’ll see what I mean then. This article is in three parts with ‘The Twelve Works Of SuidAkrA’ kicking things off, the full review of ‘Realms Of Odoric’ and a transcript of the conversation I recently had with mainman, founder and leader Arkadius Antonik. Spell his Christian name backwards and see what you get…
THE TWELVE WORKS OF SUIDAKRA
‘LUPINE ESSENCE’ (1997)
“I bewail my destiny, a foible of mine, but her voice tortures my mind.”
SuidAkrA were heard for the very first time on vinyl in 1997 with the release of debut album ‘Lupine Essence’, lupine of course being “relating to a wolf”.
The album is unrecognisable from present day SuidAkrA as the closest comparison is to Scandinavian Black Metal, all the way down to the bleakness of the album’s artwork and the difficult to read logo which thankfully changed further down the line. Arkadius’ singing style has also changed dramatically since the debut and he is the only original band member left in SuidAkrA today.
However, the album is far from being one-dimensional as the songs are interspersed with all kinds of things that you will not find on a typical Black Metal offering such as clean male and female vocal work and acoustic passages which sound distinctly medieaval. This eclectic mix, something that was completely unique for it’s time, produces a superb atmosphere which will have you conjuring up incredible images.
The album was re-issued in its entirety as the bonus tracks to 1999s third album ‘Lays From Afar’ and one of the standout tracks, ‘Warpipes Call Me’ was later re-worked into ‘Still The Pipes Are Calling’ from 2002s ‘Emprise To Avalon’ album. The whole album was recorded in just four days at Jam Studios in Leverkusen.
‘Warpipes Call Me’ was also the very first time that we got an inkling of one of SuidAkrA’s specialities, Scottish Gaelic themed Heavy Metal. It was unclear at the time that they would become the absolute masters of this particular style.
Album highlights are instrumental acoustic ‘…And A Minstrel Left The Mourning Valley’, ‘Havoc’ and this aforementioned number which is probably the track from ‘Lupine Essence’ that is closest to how the band sound today.
‘AULD LANG SYNE’ (1998)
“And if I should die in this battle, it’s a noble thing I do, And if I should be a hero, then I will return to you.”
The follow up to the debut arrived just one year later and already the band’s style was changing. Arkadius’ vocal is still the same Black Metal style as on ‘Lupine Essence’ but the songs are richer and fuller and the Celtic sound is becoming far more prominent here.
However, as with all SuidAkrA albums there are surprises. ‘And Another Cist Looms’ has an intro which is straightforward power metal, yet the breaks and the refrain riff are pretty much old school melodic thrash.
And after all that we then get something completely different in the acoustic and mystical ‘An Dùdlachd’ (December in Scottish Gaelic) and ‘Jeremiad’, along with ‘Tuatha dè Danaan’ (Tribes Of The Goddess Danu) which merges Black Metal with Celtic mysticism and contains a reference to one of SuidAkrA’s best ever songs which would be released thirteen years later while ‘The Fall Of Tara’ is an early indicator that SuidAkrA would be writing epics in the future. And check out the classical piano of closing track ‘Calm’ to see what I mean about variety.
Here are big indicators of the direction that SuidAkrA would take further down the line. Maybe there’s a massive clue to that in the album’s title as well.
The standout track is ‘Enticing Slumber’, the longest track that SuidAkrA had recorded at this stage.
‘LAYS FROM AFAR’ (1999)
“My son, he said, it’s better to reign in hell, (life’s a path of sorrow), than to serve in heaven…”
One major important fact about SuidAkrA’s third album is that it was the first time the band had collaborated with cover artist Kris Verkimp. Kris was to become a big part of SuidAkrA’s history, as you will find out in the ‘Realms Of Odoric’ album review below.
The album starts off with a blistering ‘A Darksome Path’ which showcases the progress towards the full on Celtic style the band would become best known for, even though Arkadius is still sounding more Black Metal than anything else here.
The immense guitar work and powerful melodies on ‘Lays From Afar’ are perfectly complimented by the clean vocals of Marcel Schoenen, a founding member and another hugely important figure in SuidAkrA’s history. Marcel provides vocal melodies that really give the songs that all-important medieaval sound and his lead on ‘The Hidden Quest’ is the biggest indicator yet that the band were edging towards full on folk tinged Celtic tunery.
Even the songs that still carry the old Black Metal style are now clearly Celtic influenced, ‘Wasted Lands’ being the best example of this.
‘Lays From Afar’ storms along at a relentless pace, interspersed by short acoustic tracks ‘Peregrin’ and ‘Airne’. It’s easily the fastest of the three albums so far but the songs are stronger and better structured. That is not to take anything away from the previous two offerings but the progression made by this stage is very noteable.
Standout tracks are the title track, the album opener ‘A Darksome Path’ and the rather brilliant ‘Wasted Lands’ which I did select as my video choice for this album but it isn’t available on YouTube so here’s the excellent ‘Chants Of Lethe’ instead:
‘THE ARCANUM’ (2000)
“Silentium est aurum, step back to where it once began, silentium est aurum, the adornment in our requiem…”
A new century and a major new album for SuidAkrA and this time round they are really in their element with their most definitive offering so far.
Gone is the Scandinavian Black Metal style and in its place a more uplifting and powerful musical message. Opener ‘Wartunes’ is a statement in itself and the new and even faster pace demonstrated here carries on throughout the album. The Scottish Gaelic influence is also way more prominent than ever before, as in the guitar solo towards the end of ‘To Rest In Silence’.
‘Dragonbreed’ is pure epic melodic Death Metal with a keyboard sound not heard by SuidAkrA before and a middle refrain that you simply were not expecting.
‘The Arcanum’ has easily the best production of all four albums so far. The guitars sound radically different, fuller and much more cutting, while the acoustic and folk elements are much clearer sounding. Talking of folk, the Macbeth-esque ‘Rise Of Taliesin’ deserves special mention here. Taliesin was an early Brythonic poet and renowned bard of Sub-Roman Britain and this wonderful track is a major milestone in SuidAkrA’s career to date and you can hear it below.
The album ends with a rare cover version, Skyclad’s ‘The One Piece Puzzle’, which they play brilliantly, however such is the quality of this album that another original would have been preferable but it wasn’t to be too long before we got another set of gems from SuidAkrA.
There are several standout tracks on this album but I’ve chosen ‘Rise Of Taliesin’ for you to hear because it is so different to anything the band previously produced and in terms of developing style it is hugely important.
‘EMPRISE TO AVALON’ (2002)
“As it rose in volume it also rose in pitch, until it was clear that it issued from the standing stones of Salisbury Plain…”
Album number five and SuidAkrA are now in full blown Celtic Metal mode with every song containing a heavy dose of Gaelic flavouring which is superb in every way.
This album is completely unrecogniseable as SuidAkrA if you’ve only heard the first three and it’s quite far removed from ‘The Arcanum’ as well in respect of it being full blown Celtic style, the first time the band had ever gone this far with this style.
Arkadius and Marcel’s split vocal works better on this album than ever before and Lars Wehner’s double bass drum, a feature that would become a major SuidAkrA strong point in the future, sets this album apart from all their previous works.
Marcel had actually left the band to concentrate on song-writing before the ‘Emprise…’ album but he is at his most prominent on any SuidAkrA album right here.
This is also SuidAkrA’s most varied album to date. There’s big variety on them all but ‘Emprise…’ has ‘The Spoils Of Annwn’ and this is the first time that narration is used on a SuidAkrA album. ‘The Spoils Of Annwn’ was originally a cryptic poem of sixty lines found in Middle Welsh in the Book Of Taliesin. The text recounts an expedition with King Arthur to Annwfn or Annwn, which is probably a British otherworld.
Take that track and throw in the fists in the air ‘Pendragon’s Fall’, the epic ‘Song Of The Graves’ which is the most Metal song on the album, punchy opener ‘Darkane Times’ with it’s battering intro and the acoustic ‘And The Giants Dance’ and you have an album of sheer quality that should easily pass the test of time.
As mentioned previously, ‘Still The Pipes Are Calling’ is a re-arranged version of ‘Warpipes Call Me’ from the 1997 ‘Lupine Essence’ debut album and incidentally, there are only six seconds difference in length between each of the last four songs on the album.
I can’t choose a highlight from this album as every track is top class and the album should really be listened to as a whole so here’s ‘Pendragon’s Fall’ which is a great representation of this excellent work.
‘SIGNS FOR THE FALLEN’ (2003)
“Like a hydra in a maze, decisions are doomed to fail, demented and depraved, I bite our own trail.”
And yet again, SuidAkrA produce something completely different.
2003s ‘Signs…’ album starts off at an absolutely blistering pace. This is total thrash metal and nothing quite like anything that SuidAkrA had ever put out before. There’s a small respite with ‘Threnody’ but you’re thrown out of your seat again when ‘Trails Of Gore’ kicks in, however we start to hear the Celtic sound more on this track and it increases dramatically as the album progresses and the thrash makes way for the style we first heard on ‘Emprise…’.
There’s another reprise with the acoustic ‘The Ember Deid’ which is a bit of a SuidAkrA classic. Part two of this wonderful tune would appear on the ‘Caledonia’ album three years later.
There is far less folk influence on the ‘Signs…’ album and it’s easily SuidAkrA’s heaviest offering up to now. It’s a superb listen with a dark atmosphere a constant behind some real quality songs.
The penultimate track ‘Bound In Changes’ is now the longest SuidAkrA track at nearly nine minutes but the album’s title track is my personal standout song here. Just take a listen to the complexity in the arrangements. There’s some excellent time changes here and it’s a perfect example of how SuidAkrA’s songwriting abilities were now hitting unprecedented levels.
‘COMMAND TO CHARGE’ (2005)
“By chain and thorn we lead your path, which you will crawl on bleeding knees, with fear and pain bare existence, whatever might be left of you.”
There are even more firsts on ‘Command…’ and probably the most important one is the first ever appearance by female vocalist Tina Stabel who has appeared on every SuidAkrA album since, apart from ‘Caledonia’.
‘The End Beyond Me’ is the new longest SuidAkrA track but it isn’t really because it’s listing at over nine minutes does not mention that it contains a “secret” track, a cover of Mike Oldfield’s ‘Moonlight Shadow’ and Tina does a wonderful job on this much heavier version of the song.
Also hugely important is that this is the first time that bagpipes were ever heard on a SuidAkrA album, the track in question being ‘Haughs Of Cromdale’ which is a cover of a traditional Scottish song. It most certainly and happily was not to be the last time that bagpipes would be utilised by the band.
‘Command…’ contains many Scottish references, for example the absolutely brilliant ‘Dead Man’s Reel’ incorporates the main melody of the traditional Scottish song ‘The Bonnie Banks O’ Loch Lomond’ and Marcel’s vocal during the refrain at 2.04 of opener ‘Decibel Dance’ totally reminds me of the late Stuart Adamson of Big Country, which is no bad thing at all.
As a standalone offering, ‘Command To Charge’ is a good album and well worthy of several concise hearings, however the next release was so vastly superior that it pushed ‘Command…’ right down the playlist.
Here’s ‘Dead Man’s Reel’, a bombastic, joyous, superb track that all patriotic Scotsmen should be listening to. It sounds like Runrig after they had some of Lemmy’s speed.
“Sae the mindin’ in yer heid, Unrowes afore yer een, Frae hours o’ sweet yestreen, Aye the ember deid in monie a heid, Fare ye well I’m pertin away.”
This was a real breakthrough album for SuidAkrA and the natural follow-up to ‘Command To Charge’ as thematically it is in the same vein, although musically that style had now developed and the band really excelled themselves with their songwriting here.
For me, this album blows ‘Command…’ away simply because of the strength of the songs, eight minute opener ‘Highland Hills’ setting the tone for a yomp through the Scottish highlands. ‘A Blackened Shield’ contains some of the best melodies that SuidAkrA have ever produced and the aforementioned ‘Amber Deid’, the now fully expected acoustic number, is just simply beautiful and haunting.
By now, SuidAkrA’s lyrical content was almost exclusively about the Celts battling the invading Roman legions and on ‘Caledonia’ it is specifically about the mystical side of the tribe of the Picts and their war against the Roman Empire. The Picts are about to gain even more prominence as you will see on the new release.
The utterly superb ‘Forth-Clyde’ is still one of my very favourite SuidAkrA tracks ever. It also marked the very first proper SuidAkrA promo video so finally you can see the band in action below. It’s not hard to work out which one is Arkadius and which one is Marcel. The bagpipe player is Axel Römer who plays on all SuidAkrA releases that feature bagpipes.
‘Forth Clyde’ is the song which defines the ‘Caledonia’ album but it doesn’t overshadow the remaining songs on the album, especially ‘Drawing Tempest’ with it’s superb breaks, ‘The IXth Legion’ which is a classic in it’s own right – that’s how you use bagpipes on a Heavy Metal track! – and the thought provoking ‘Evoke The Demon’. In fact, every track on ‘Caledonia’ is excellent and that’s why ‘Command…’ has slipped down the playlist – it’s younger brother was born much bigger and stronger.
So have a watch of this and see the fires burn, here at Forth-Clyde.
“I am history turned into legend, I am victory and fire, the future and desire, I am triumph and honour, I am memory turned into myth, I am Conlaoch.”
Following up ‘Caledonia’ must have posed a real problem but SuidAkrA are absolutely not a band to rest on their laurels and they actually pulled it off by moving away from the ‘Caledonia’ style and going Irish. Crógacht is the Irish Gaelic word for bravery and this is fitting because this album was indeed a very brave move.
Whilst containing pretty much all of the elements that made ‘Caledonia’ such a great album, ‘Crógacht’ is far heavier and contains much more of a folk influence by using traditional instruments such as the tin whistle and banjo, in addition to the now familiar bagpipe as well as a sixteen-member choir.
‘Crógacht’ is entirely based on the Irish folktale Aided Óenfhir Aífe (The Death Of Aoife’s Only Son) and it tells the story of the hero Cuchulainn’s journey to the Isle Of Skye in the Hebrides, where he seeks to learn the arts of war from the Scythian warrior woman Scáthach. The decisions he then has to make set the events in motion that will lead up to his son Conlaoch’s tragic fate.
Unfortunately Marcel had left the band completely by this stage so clean male vocals are much less prominent on this album but Tina Stabel gets her first official outing on the superb ‘Feats Of War’ (that riff that cuts in at just before the two minute mark will blow you away), a song where she is the only vocalist, another first for SuidAkrA.
The acoustic number on this album is ‘Ar Nasc Fola’ which is totally different to anything that went before it as it is pure Irish Gaelic folk while ‘Shattering Swords’ and ‘Gilded Oars’ are both classic SuidAkrA metal. The album closes on the epic ‘Baile’s Strand’ which is probably the highight and most definitive song of the album.
SuidAkrA excelled themselves with ‘Crógacht’ but the best was still yet to come. Here’s ‘Baile’s Strand’, but do check out the album as a whole as it’s full of quality and surprises, especially ‘Isle Of Skye’.
‘BOOK OF DOWTH’ (2011)
“Stone of power, stone of light, the stone at Dowth will end this fight, I’ll bury the book for ages to come, beneath the stone of the seven suns…”
‘Book Of Dowth’ is not just my absolute favourite SuidAkrA album, it’s in my top ten albums of all time, right up there with Motörhead, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and all the other greats. This is nothing short of a complete masterpiece and while I will always hold ‘Caledonia’ and ‘Crógacht’ in very high regard, ‘Book Of Dowth’ supercedes everything that went before it.
‘Book Of Dowth’ means “the book of darkness” and it stays with the Irish culture so prevelant on ‘Crógacht’, although musically the two albums are world’s apart. The book was found in a Celtic grave called Dowth by an archeological student. After he read the book it captured the evil souls of an ancient race called Fomorians who are then unleashed and destroy the whole human race.
From the opening bagpipe of ‘Over Nine Waves’ and the memorable ‘Dowth 2059’ with it’s impeccable drumming you know instantly on first listen that this album is nothing short of an utter classic.
Tina Stabel is captivating on ‘Birog’s Oath’, a song that builds and builds and will have you shouting along by the end and ‘Mag Mell’, sung by Matthias Zimmer, is a brilliant folksy number that will most certainly stay forever young and strong, as will this whole opus.
‘The Dark Mound’ is atmospheric in the extreme while ‘Stone Of The Seven Suns’ is more than memorable, however the highlight of the album for me is the utterly magnificent ‘Balor’, the best track that SuidAkrA have ever written in my opinion. The video is just below and it just demands to be watched.
The album closes out on a more sombre note with the thoughtful ‘Otherworlds Collide’ after the wonderful ‘Fury Fomoraigh’ keeps you in Metal frenzy, just as you thought it was safe to come out from hiding after ‘Balor’.
I just can’t praise ‘Book Of Dowth’ highly enough. It’s over five years old now and I still play it very regularly and I suppose that says it all. A truly classic Heavy Metal album on which Arkadius plays mandolin for the very first time.
Here’s ‘Balor’. Just listen to that amazing drumming by Lars, who totally excels himself here, along with the song as a whole, and if you have any idea at all why SuidAkrA have still not got a high profile in the UK, then please let me know.
‘ETERNAL DEFIANCE’ (2013)
“Once I went on a quest divine, when all I had was a legion of men, I sought and found eternal life, I conquered the world and made it mine.”
There was definitely a trepidation when ‘Eternal Defiance’ landed due to it’s predecessor being so superb but by now it should have been obvious that SuidAkrA would do something completely different as a follow-up to their greatest work yet and that is exactly what they did. This time they went Welsh.
‘Eternal Defiance’ is based liberally on the history and mythology of the Welsh story, The Dream Of Macsen Wledig, who is the Emperor of Rome who dreams one night of a lovely maiden in a wonderful, far-off land. When he wakes up he sends his men all over the world in search of her and they eventually find her in a castle in Britain and lead the Emperor to her. They didn’t have internet dating in those days.
There’s some truly magical moments on this album, for example the superb ‘March Of Conquest’, ‘Pair Dadeni’ with bagpipes playing off against heavy guitars which actually reminds me of how Blackmore and Lord used to duel, the blistering ‘Dragon’s Head’ and ‘Damnatio Memoriae’ which is the best acoustic song that SuidAkrA ever wrote apart from ‘Mag Mell’.
What makes ‘Eternal Defiance’ stand out from their other albums is the orchestration which is most prominent in the mid part of ‘Rage For Revenge’. It’s a great album but it doesn’t quite reach the dizzy heights that ‘Book Of Dowth’ managed. Almost but not quite.
Arkadius talks you through every track on the album on this video and there are many anecdotes and interesting pointers about the album right here, plus you get to hear a snippet of every track.
SuidAkrA studio album releases:
Lupine Essence (1997)
Auld Lang Syne (1998)
Lays From Afar (1999)
The Arcanum (2000)
Emprise To Avalon (2002)
Signs For The Fallen (2003)
Command To Charge (2005)
Book Of Dowth (2011)
Eternal Defiance (2013)
Realms Of Odoric (2016)
So there you have it, all SuidAkrA’s back catalog and there are very few bands who have one as rich as this. SuidAkrA are signed by AFM Records since 2011 and that leads us nicely onto…
‘Realms Of Odoric’
Release Date: 20th May 2016
If you have read all of the above then you’ll no doubt be expecting something different from SuidAkrA when you hear their twelfth offering for the very first time and you absolutely will not be disappointed as this is the very first album that Arkadius and his troops have not used Celtic legend as an album theme.
‘Realms Of Odoric’ is based on a fictional fantasy world rather than historical fact and centres around an artwork/soundtrack project which was started by Kris Verwimp and Arkadius in May 2013. Kris has been involved with SuidAkrA for many years and is the creative head for the lyrical concept and artwork. The album’s lyrics deal with tribes and characters from the comic book ‘Odoric: The Wall Of Doom’, published by Kris in 1996.
Kris and Arkadius were aware of each other’s work back in the mid-nineties. Kris was doing cover artwork for Marduk, among others, which was noticed by Arkadius and Kris got to hear SuidAkrA’s second album ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and took the initiative by writing to SuidAkrA’s record label asking if he could do the artwork for the band’s next release.
Kris’ first artwork for SuidAkrA appeared on the 1999 ‘Lays From Afar’ album and the relationship between Kris and Arkadius became much more intense when Marcel Schoenen left the band because Marcel was writing the majority of the lyrics for SuidAkrA at that time. Arkadius involved Kris in the whole lyrical concept for the first time on 2009s ‘Crógacht’ album and it worked perfectly.
As well as SuidAkrA, Arkadius and Kris started a project in 2013 because Arkadius was also doing some orchestral compositions and here was the opportunity for Kris to bring Odoric back to life. At this time there were no plans to do this with SuidAkrA as well but when the songwriting for the new SuidAkrA album began Arkadius wanted to start something new and fresh and came up with the idea to use the Odoric concept. Kris was totally enthusiastic about it and the result is the brand new SuidAkrA album.
You can hear a lot of the orchestral ‘Realms Of Odoric’ project on YouTube and there is rather a lot of it. It’s a continuing project that has no planned ending and the second album will be released this December as a combined book and album but before that, on 26th June this year, Kris and Arkadius will perform and record ‘Odoric Overture’ with a 66-piece symphonic orchestra from Frankfurt with Hans Zimmer whose credits include The Lion King, for which he won Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1994, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Thin Red Line, Gladiator, The Last Samurai, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar and many, many more.
Here’s just one example from the orchestral album.
So history lesson over, let’s focus on SuidAkrA’s ‘Realms Of Odoric’ album which is right up there with the very best that the band has ever produced.
The album was recorded at the Gernhard Studio in Troisdorf, Germany by producer Martin Buchwalter who’s also been responsible for the last six SuidAkrA albums. The thirteen songs on ‘Realms…’ make this the longest album in the band’s history in terms of number of songs, although thirteenth track ‘Remembrance’ is listed as a bonus track, despite it being a bridge between ‘Realms…’ and the next SuidAkrA album.
The album begins with ‘Into The Realm’ which is mystical and conjures up images of a magical world. Don’t be surprised to see Arkadius writing film scores in the future. The bagpipes and narration kick in early on this album but don’t let ‘…Realm’ lull you into a false sense of security because as soon as ‘The Serpent Within’ kicks in, we’re in full blown Metal mode. This track contains a magnificent chorus which is unexpected, uplifting and mesmeric at the same time with clean and growling vocals working exceptionally well together and a superb refrain in the middle with orchestrals that mesmerise.
And then we’re thrust head first into ‘The Hunter’s Horde’ where SuidAkrA have produced another first by using Chinese instruments. It tells the story of an Eastern horde and as it is the first video released from the album, you can see and hear it right here. Please bear in mind that as usual with a SuidAkrA album all of the tracks on ‘Realms…’ are completely individual and unique in their own right.
We get a light refrain next with ‘Creeping Blood’ which is two minutes of pure sinister. It’s about a tribe that drinks the blood of their enemies and it is incredibly dark and gloomy but then the incredible ‘Undaunted’ kicks in and this is where we hear Tina Stabel for the very first time on ‘Realms…’. This song has everything that made SuidAkrA great; a rousing melody, a memorable chorus, a superb lead vocal from Tina and those bagpipes stayed in my head for days after I first heard them.
‘Lion Of Darcania’ also has an extremely memorable hookline which is proud and epic and it includes trumpets and horns which work seriously well. Other bands may well have overdone the keyboards but SuidAkrA have the balance perfect here. The Darcania are another tribe from the Odoric saga and Lion of Darcania is the commander of their troops.
The absolute highlight of the album for me is the totally superb ‘Pictish Pride’. This is the one that you will be singing to yourself in the shower, in the car, on the bus or wherever you may be. A rousing guitar riff carries the main melody of the track before a treble vocal chorus (Tina, Matthias, Sascha) that just stays with you. This is the track of the album for me and here it is in all it’s glory.
‘On Roads To Ruin’ contains more narration than regular vocal but this works extremely well. The whole track produces a sense of foreboding, as the title suggests, and the guitar takes you on a journey to what you may rightfully perceive as your fate, however you are immediately uplifted by ‘Dark Revelations’ which despite it’s “legends lost…” hook and dark, moody interludes is essentially a song of triumph.
‘Braving The End’ is the acoustic song on the album and another first as Sascha Aßbach, the lead singer of Arkadius’ second band, Fall Of Carthage, takes the male lead here and his dark, deep voice is nothing short of captivating. He plays Odoric himself here with Tina playing his wife and the lyrics to this story need no explaining. This track is a total SuidAkrA triumph and it will grip you.
But as always with a SuidAkrA acoustic album track you are quickly thrust out of your slumber when the battlecry of ‘One Against The Tide’ kicks in. Not for the first time on the album the bagpipes are duelling with the guitars and in this case the orchestra as well and Arkadius’ vocal here is brutal and menacing. One of the big highlights of the album for me.
‘Cimbric Requiem’ is a perfect album closer as it’s mystical beginning gives way to a joyous and spiritually satisfying melody that transports you to a far away dreamy land. It’s almost instrumental, almost because Tina adds some harmonies to the music which give the track it’s whole essence.
Bonus track ‘Remembrance’ is to give you an idea of what is to come. The first age has ended with ‘Cimbric Requiem’ and ‘Remembrance’ is a guide to the second world which is coming up in the future on SuidAkrA’s thirteenth album and is told by the narrator.
So every song individually captures the atmospheric essence of the characters in question and there are many different things to be discovered on this album. Even after playing it multiple times and writing this review I am still hearing different things every time I play it.
And apart from the whole concept all of the songs work brilliantly well on their own. There are some real gems on ‘Realms…’ and as I said at the start of this review, it’s right up there with the best that SuidAkrA have done in their 22-year-long career.
All in all, a complete triumph for the most under-rated band currently in existence but will we get to see them live in the UK soon? Let’s ask Arkadius below…
“Our blood must never, ever dry…”
1. Into The Realm
2. The Serpent Within
3. The Hunter’s Horde
4. Creeping Blood
6. Lion Of Darcania
7. Pictish Pride
8. On Roads To Ruin
9. Dark Revelations
10. Braving The End
11. One Against The Tide
12. Cimbric Requiem
Bonus track (Digipak version)
Arkadius Antonik: vocals, guitars, keyboards, banjo
Marius “Jussi” Pesch: guitars, clean vocals
Lars Wehner: drums, backing vocals
Tim Siebrecht: bass, guitars, clean vocals
Guest musicians on ‘Realms Of Odoric’:
Tina Stabel: vocals
Axel Römer: bagpipes
Matthias Zimmer: vocals
Sascha Aßbach: vocals
CONVERSATION WITH ARKADIUS ANOTONIK
MetalTalk: You’ve done one six date UK tour with Saxon and Anvil in 2009 and played Bloodstock in 2005. British history is a huge part of SuidAkrA’s world so when can we expect to see you play in Britain again?
Arkadius: I hope as soon as possible, but it’s not up to us, it’s when we get invited to play shows. We would love to come over and play, especially because of the fact that Britain’s history is a part of SuidAkrA’s history. We were always very fascinated with it and it gave us so many cool stories that we were able to do these concept albums so for us it will be very special.
The Saxon tour was very special as well. I still remember when we played in Edinburgh, Scotland, we were performing ‘Dead Men’s Reel’ with the ‘Loch Lomond’ theme in the middle and people were like fucking freaking out. I was standing on stage and couldn’t believe this was happening.
The reason why it was so amazing was because usually we don’t fit with this line up, playing with Saxon and Anvil, it’s not the Folk/Death Metal SuidAkrA style.
On one date on that tour, I don’t remember the exact one, when we started playing people were shouting “bring Saxon on stage” – that’s all I remember from this tour (just kidding) but this actually happened. But it was OK for me because I know if people from the Metal scene are listening to Saxon they probably won’t like SuidAkrA, but it was a pretty cool opportunity to come over and maybe gain some new fans. Unfortunately, it was last the UK appearance for us, I don’t know why.
The same thing with Bloodstock. I mean, we really loved the experience; it’s a pretty cool festival. I always tried to get booked again, I was contacting the promoter with no response or there was no offer to come back which is pretty sad for me because I know that there are still friends and fans in the UK, so it will be a big thing for us to return. Maybe with your support we will make it back.
MetalTalk: With such a rich history and a back catalogue that should appeal to all Brits into Metal, why do you think you are practically unknown in this country?
Arkadius: I don’t know! If I knew the answer I would change it. Maybe it is a combination of a few facts – because SuidAkrA is not a band that has ever had major support by a major label. There are some bands on the majors that always get a big tour and big promotion when they release a major album. Everything we’ve achieved so far with SuidAkrA is hard work for us. We’ve played our arses off, we’ve done bookings, we were one of those do it yourself bands. Of course we have a label and they are supporting us but it’s not that big a thing.
Sometimes in the past there were problems with distribution. I talked to British fans and they were telling me there was a Metal store round the corner and they had one or two copies of the ‘Crógacht’ album, which sold out and they never got new ones – they were also contacting the distributor and never got a response. Then of course on the other hand you have this lack of live performance, because when nobody invites us and usually people forget about you – our last appearance on Bloodstock was 2005, that’s eleven years ago, and the last tour 2009 is still seven years ago, so that’s the mixture, the combination of the three things.
I wish it could be different, I feel really connected to the UK as I’m really interested in the history and also feel connected because of the fans we met on the last two events who were really into our music and they were supporting us and we still get feedback on social media. I hope we will get a chance to come back and change that maybe.
Los Angeles, 2015. Photo credit Anna Hummel
Above, I have quoted ‘Book Of Dowth’ as being “a complete masterpiece that supercedes everything that went before it” and even after the brilliant ‘Realms Of Odoric’ I still feel the same. Do you agree with that?
Thank you! I agree with you about the fact that ‘Book Of Dowth’ was something different that we never did before and it’s the same with ‘Realms Of Odoric’, but to be honest I kind of have the same feeling on every SuidAkrA record because every time I’m writing a new album my big plan is not to copy ourselves. That’s the reason why I’m not looking back in the past to what we’ve done so far, or trying to use some elements again, or if something that worked very well on the last record I don’t want to repeat it, because I’m a musician so I’m always open minded.
I’m working on my musical skills and also my songwriting skills, so I always try to create something new. Maybe it’s because of the fact that we are not doing it for a living, so it gives us the freedom to do whatever we want to but at the same time we are not in a position to do something for other people, to like the album for us to be able to pay our rent or stuff like that. These are facts that are not really in the whole SuidAkrA world so we are totally free when we are writing a new album and there’s no reason to copy ourselves, especially after doing eleven albums in more than twenty years of the band. It’s history and I don’t feel it would be necessary to do all the same thing, so I agree with you that a lot of things changed on the ‘Rrealms…’ album, the way of songwriting, how the songs are structured and it was kind of the same feeling with ‘Book…’, so on that point I totally agree with you.
MetalTalk: Marcel was a major part of the band from inception to ‘Caledonia’ which I believe was his masterclass performance but he left shortly after that album. Do you miss him?
Arkadius: Speaking for myself – of course I miss him. The reason why he left the band wasn’t personal, he started his own company and then he became a father, so he wasn’t able to play shows with us anymore or do the songwriting either. Usually you spend a lot of time doing the research and he was responsible for the lyrics in the past, so he spent a lot of time doing the research for the concept. He felt more free after he left the band, as you have to be responsible for things – when you say you play a tour, of course you have to play a tour, you cannot cancel because you feel that it’s hard work or whatever, so I think for Marcel it was the perfect decision and for us it was very hard.
I was working with Marcel since the beginning as he joined the band after the second demo so was part of the band since the first official release, the ‘Lupine Essence’ album. We had a perfect chemistry from the beginning. We were just sitting together writing songs and it was a very very cool process where we had this flow. Sometimes we understood each other without talking to each other. The music was our world and after he left I kind of felt: “Jesus, now I have to do it on my own.”
Writing an album like ‘Crógacht’ was like climbing a huge mountain for me and to be honest I didn’t even know if I would be able to make it, because in the past some parts were played by Marcel and I would do this, he would do that and everything was clear and now I was the only person in the band responsible for the whole record. That was the biggest challenge personally for me as a musician.
After its release I felt “ok I can do this” and it became something natural so right now it’s just totally normal but of course I miss Marcel like I miss every band member that has been part of our history as we all share memories and funny times. I’m not even talking about the musical experience or the journey we’ve made, but you spend a lot of time on the road, in the studio, doing some phone calls and we’ve always been a band that shared a really stupid and sick sense of humour and this is something that connects you to people.
To be honest I can tell you I always was making music with best friends or friends, never with colleagues or partners and sometimes it’s even more important for me that it fits on a personal level much better than on a musical level. You can work on your musical skills but you can’t change your personality, it’s impossible.
Madrid, 2015. Photo credit Josean Zombie
MetalTalk: The repertoire of instruments you have personally mastered seems to keep growing (lead vocals, guitars, banjo, mandolin, keyboards). Are there any more instruments that you would like to learn?
Arkadius: I was doing the keyboard parts since the beginning as I was working them out for our female keyboard player in the band then after she left I felt there was no reason to look for a new keyboard player as I was doing it anyway. That was when we decided to use the keyboard parts as a sample live to make it work and then I saw myself more as a composer and not a guitarist. There are so many guitarists in the Metal world that want to pay guitar solos like Lexi from Children Of Bodom, or be like Yngwie Malmsteen. I realised I wasn’t going to be as good as the big heroes in this world, as I still have to work and I’ve got a relationship, so early on in the band’s career I thought myself more a composer than a guitarist.
I just wanted to make good songs, even if that meant not playing guitar solos and being in the spotlight and that’s the reason why I also started looking for other instruments, why I started to play banjo and mandolin – of course these are string instruments like guitar but I was also thinking of learning to play a harp.
Most of the time I couldn’t do it because of a lack of time and that’s why I’m thankful now that I’ve got the opportunity to use the libraries for the orchestral arrangements in my compositions without learning how to play the instruments. But you never know, I’m not that old, I’m still able to learn a new instrument so we will see.
MetalTalk: As well as SuidAkrA you have the orchestral ‘Odoric Overture’ project with Kris Verwimp and Fall Of Carthage. Here’s your chance to tell the UK more about those activities.
Arkadius: ‘Odoric Overture’ is a song that I composed for the orchestral symphonic recording released at the end of next month. Odoric has its own musical theme so I called it ‘Odoric Overture’ because we want to use it as an intro for every Realms Of Odoric album and project that features Odoric, something like 20th Century Fox [sings part of the riff].
When I started composing that sort of orchestral stuff releasing them on Soundcloud, Kris Verwimp was surprised. He had worked with me for years but didn’t know about this side and he asked me if I would be interested to do this artwork soundtrack project called ‘Realms Of Odoric’ which is based on a comic he released back in the 90s called The Wall Of Doom.
I said “yes sure, why not”, as I was always looking for inspiration because it’s sometimes hard when you get a melody, it sounds cool but there’s something missing. With a fantasy story it’s like writing music for a movie because you get the story before, or an illustration from Kris, and then you are just composing in a specific way, a specific direction.
When we started this project, our plan was not to be part of any business, we didn’t want to make any promotional stuff we just wanted to make music for people that are interested. We didn’t know at that time there was going to be a release, we just wanted to be creative, and that’s still the same now even after we have released our first debut album and also with SuidAkrA.
Kris and I are working on the second album which is going to be released at the end of this year called ‘The Second Age’ and we are continuing the story of Odoric. It’s still a very inspirational project and I’m happy to get the chance to work with Kris on this one because I love his work and he loves the fact that he had the opportunity to reactivate the Odoric story again after so many years.
So we inspire each other; sometimes I write a piece of music so he’s inspired to start writing a story and sometimes I get an illustration by Kris and think “wow that looks awesome” and I can’t wait to get home and write some music.
MetalTalk: ‘Realms Of Odoric’ is an excellent piece of work. How long did the album take from inception to completion and what are your hopes and ambitions for it?
Arkadius: I’m really surprised because usually writing an album takes much longer than this one. In the past when the time has come to write a new album for SuidAkrA I usually need one, two, three songs to get into the right flow and this time as I was already working on the project with Kris there wasn’t that kind of beginning difficulties. I had a flow from the start.
To give you an example, we planned only ten songs for this concept album but at the end we had thirteen, because when I had finished the tenth one we said “ok we’re done”, but I was still inspired and I kept writing new material. Every time I came up with a new song everybody said “wow that’s cool” so Kris had to write more lyrics – then I had to stop because otherwise we would have a double LP.
It took less than a year. I think it was eight months from the beginning of the first song till we entered the studio and the thing was finished. It was a very short process when you compare it to previous albums. Sometimes I’m really surprised myself by the way it works, I don’t doubt it though, I enjoy it.
To be honest when I’m leaving the studio and the work’s been done, I don’t really have hopes. Of course I love reading feedback from the fans but I don’t hope it will be a success or whatever, for me the biggest success is that it exists and that’s it. Doing it for so many years with so many bands coming and going and disappearing, I consider myself very happy to still be part of SuidAkrA, and to still be here after more than twenty years.
I’m not a person to look into the future with hopes or ambitions. I enjoy the here and now so I can say I’m very proud of this one and that’s it. My biggest hope is that the next album will be released and that it will turn out 100% like my vision in my head is; these are things that I can have an effect on.
Ragnarök Festival 2010. Photo credit Christopher Schirner
MetalTalk: You seem to have covered every possible base musically, as I have covered above, so where do you go from here and what can we expect in the future from SuidAkrA?
Arkadius: Hard to say, because as I said before when I am writing the next release I don’t look back or look forward because I concentrate and focus myself on the new upcoming record. What I can tell you right now is the thirteenth track, which is a bonus track called ‘Remembrance’, is an introduction for the second age of The Realms Of Odoric saga. I also told you that we are going to release a second album with the orchestral project. The whole Odoric thing was created as a trilogy with the first, second and third age and we are going to do this project with SuidAkrA too so you can expect two more albums, but in a musical way it’s hard to say, it depends on what the story’s about.
MetalTalk: So what have been your career highlights so far?
Arkadius: Oh dear, so many I cannot tell you about all of them because otherwise we would talk for hours! We’ll start with the fact that we were able to release the first demo and have a line-up for the band, then there are so many first times. The first time to record an album, first release of a CD, first time being on tour, first time doing the clean vocals, first time playing America, playing India, so many first times and other highlights. It would be unfair to pick one as being the biggest and I’m thankful for every one and very much appreciate what we have achieved so far.
MetalTalk: Do you have any regrets from the last 22 years?
Arkadius: No. I don’t. It’s simple to answer because without the decisions we or I have made in the past, no matter if they were good or not there wouldn’t be SuidAkrA in 2016 the way we are now. Everything we did was a part of the band’s history and I’m really proud of it. At the end, of course, there are certain things where you look back and think sometimes I could have done it better, but that’s bullshit.
I mean everything you’ve done so far forms you as a person or as a musician or as a band. I’m really 100% thankful and happy with the SuidAkrA we have here in 2016 so there’s nothing I regret in the past as it’s part of the history.
MetalTalk: And finally Arkadius, what is your message to the UK Metalheads?
Arkadius: Don’t forget about SuidAkrA because it’s been a long time since we performed in the UK. Thank you for supporting us and we truly hope to come back and experience that live feeling with you guys again because it was very special and it’s really a pity that we never had the chance to come back again. I hope that will change in the future, so no matter which way you supported us, if you bought a shirt or went to a show (probably not in the UK but maybe at a European festival) or buying the album, digital or physical, I’m truly thankful for that.
Thanks for supporting SuidAkrA because we were talking about how we are not a band with a major label but the fans are the reason why we are still here and able to do what we do. I know there are so many bands saying this same sentence over again about why are we doing all this – because it’s fucking true! [laughs] I truly feel that way and it’s also why I truly appreciate your support Steve, and for doing all this and if we get a chance to come back then we all can say “wow another job well done.”
Metalheads UK – cheers from SuidAkrA, keep on headbanging, hope to see you soon.
MetalTalk: So do we Arkadius, so do we!