Germany’s Waldgeflüster began their journey in 2005 and is the sole creation of Winterherz. Up until 2014 he was the only full time member but that didn’t stop him from creating three full lengths of scathing yet earthy and emotionally charged black metal. With each successive release the band’s sound grew larger in scope and deeper in feel as Winterherz is not content to make the same album twice. Ruinen was released last October and is not only immense in scope but stands as the band’s finest album to date, it found its way onto numerous end of year lists and rightfully so. The way Waldgeflüster successfully marries raw black metal with a modern, melancholic sound and feel is truly second to none. We recently had a chance to talk with Winterherz about the new album, how the full lineup affected dynamics, nature as it relates to this particular band and much more. Find out what he had to say after the jump.
On Ruinen, the scope seems so much larger than your previous works. The feeling of expansiveness is overwhelming, and even more so than it was on Meine Fesseln, was this the goal going into the album?
In some way it was. We didn’t write the record with that in mind, as we always just write what needs to get out at that certain point of time. But we have so many different musical influences that this kind of happened. Anyway, it has always been important to me to write diverse records. Nothing is worse than writing the same song over and over again, so I always wanted to avoid this. I think it’s safe to say this was never as successful in our history as on Ruinen.
Nature has always been a large part of your releases, everything from the album art to the earthy, organic sound of each album, even with the raw production on Herbstklagen this organic approach bled through. How, in your opinion has this deep connection with nature informed you as an artist and furthermore your music?
The connection to nature formed my art and music a lot. Only nature gives me the freedom to explore my inner feelings and connect with my demons, as it is needed for Waldgeflüster. But as I moved to the city 6 years ago my art was expanded by those influences as well. I will always try to have nature as the main influence for the songs, but my art is also a product of my surroundings. I think you can hear that on Ruinen. I will move out of the city again in the next weeks, so I guess this will be audible in the next Waldgeflüster release as well.
Speaking of album artwork, the cover of Ruinen captures the feeling of the album very well but is there anything particularly personal about it? Can you tell us a little more about the art and how you feel it ties into the album?
As the metaphor of a ruin is a combining element of the songs on this record, it was clear that the album needs to be named “Ruinen” (which translates to “ruins”) and it was also clear to us that the cover needs to be a ruin in the woods. We met with Sarah to discuss this, and the first sketches immediately showed that we were on the right track. The final cover perfectly expressed the solitude of the lonely ruin that overlooks the landscape and is some sort of jewel in this. This is exactly what the introduction of this record describes and it perfectly fits the topics on this album.
Listening through your work in chronological order, each album expands slightly on the last. Little nuances have separated each release up until Meine Fesseln, which seemed to steer your music slightly in a different direction. But Ruinen, at least to me, sounds more like a combination of everything you’ve done, just on a much larger scale. “Und immer wieder Schmee” contains some of the most galvanizing black metal to date, “Susitaival” is arguably your best acoustic folk album closer yet, and the unique tremolo work in “Trümmerfestung” is both emotional and uplifting at the same time, with that said do you feel this is your pinnacle and if so why?
I hope it is not our pinnacle and that there is more to come! But you are right, we already feel some kind of pressure for the next record, as in our opinion “Ruinen” is our best effort so far. Of course, we want to be as satisfied with our next output as with “Ruinen”, but this might prove hard. Exactly because of the reasons you mentioned. We feel that there is so much diversity going on on this record — we worked on every little detail until it was perfect in our opinion. We will see what the next songs we are going to write will bring.
The songs contained on Ruinen are meticulously crafted and offer so many layers that it takes several listens to begin any sort of dissection of its contents. I’m interested to know your writing approach when it’s time for a new album and specifically for this album? And did the writing process for Ruinen differ from any other album?
The only difference was that five people were involved where beforehand it was only one. The basic approach stayed the same: We collect riffs that we like and see which ones might fit together. I will then create some first demos with a drum computer and then we’ll form this song in my studio for the next months. Going from rough versions to more detailed ones until we think it is flawless. This will take up to 3 months per song I think. We are pretty slow writers. This was my approach for the last records and it stayed the same for this one. Now there’s five people with ideas and also opinions, which probably forced us to work even harder on the songs.
2014 was a major turning point for the band when you added a complete lineup. In your opinion, how has this affected your music and furthermore how has it affected the dynamic of what you started in 2005?
Of course the dynamic changed because of this. Some things now take longer then when I did it alone, as everyone has his own schedule with work and so on. But I would not be able to manage to do everything alone nowadays anyway, so in the end we are probably still faster considering the complete workload. The music was affected as my guys had some great ideas for the record, which I would not have been able to come up with. But this had less influence on the overall sound of the record as people think. The record would have gone in the exact same direction if I had done it alone. It would just not have been as good. I think that is a misunderstanding by some of our fans.
Austin Lunn (Panopticon) has guested on a couple of albums now and earlier this year both of your bands released a split album. Waldgefluster and Panopticon share much in sound and ideals, how did this relationship come about and do you plan on continuing to work together in the future?
I hope to have some exchanges on future albums with Austin! He is one of my best friends in the world and I like working with him. We got in touch around 2010 because of each other’s music and we have been friends ever since we met in person for the first time. We see each other 2 – 4 times a year, I visit him or he visits me and we hope to continue this until we are old and grey, sitting by a fire with some good beers in our hands.
Black metal, by its very nature, is scathing and cold. Your take on it retains the soul of black metal but for the most part is much more emotionally involving. Would you agree or disagree with that statement and why?
The statement might by true for most of the Black Metal of the second era. But even back then albums like Bergtatt existed, which for me are not cold at all, but have a more melancholic touch to them. I feel that in the years after this approach BM got bigger and bigger, and the cold and grim BM makes out only 50% of nowadays BM. As with every genre, BM evolved with the artists that formed it. You might dislike it but that is the way it goes. And although I enjoy stuff like old Darkthrone or Mayhem as well, I was always drawn more to the “earthy”, melancholic BM in contrary to the “snowy”, angry and hateful approach of BM.
As an artist it’s a given that you are driven to create something bigger and better than your last album and Ruinen has found its way onto many Best of 2016 lists so it definitely has resonated positively with many listeners. Do you count this as a personal achievement or do you see it as an opportunity or even a challenge to yet again do something bigger?
Of course this is an achievement! We are absolutely satisfied with our record, and it is good to see that some people can relate to something we created. We are very proud and also thankful for that. But as I wrote beforehand already: This is also a great challenge for us. At least I strive to become better on a daily basis: Be it as a person, as a worker or as an artist. So “Ruinen” will be a great challenge to overcome and create something that is even as good as this. We will see if we achieve this.
What’s next for Waldgeflüster?
We will probably play some shows and present “Ruinen” live. We are looking forward to see all of you down the road. We also just now started writing on new material, but don’t get too excited yet, as stated before, we are very slow writers…
Thank you for your time in doing this interview, anything you’d like to add?
Thank you for this interview and the support!
Many thanks to Winterherz for his time!