Brainstorm rekindle the flame

Going back to the roots is a recurring concept in the music industry, and even more so in the metal scene. Does it really allow bands to refocus and win back their fans, or is it just an illusion, a desperate practice? In the case of Brainstorm and their new album Firesoul, it came naturally, after the musicians realized they found “aucun plaisir à jouer [les nouvelles chansons] en live”. Granted, since Downburst (which received attention for its very modern feel), or even since Liquid Monster (which still assumed a classic Brainstorm sound), the band had been lying rather low. Will Firesoul make a difference and put the Germans in the spotlight again? Wait and see.

In the following interview, we talked with vocalist Andy B. Frank about the new album, released a few months ago. It was also a good opportunity to talk about the separation of Symphorce, his other band – although a comeback isn’t entirely out of the question.

« I think that was very important for us to come back to the point to say especially what Brainstorm is all about in 2014. »

Radio Metal: It seems that, with Firesoul, you wanted to go back a little bit in time in terms of how you used to make albums. So, how was the working process this time? How different was it compared to your previous couple of albums?

Andy B. Frank (vocals): The difference is, especially on the last three albums, that we sometimes went into the studio with unfinished songs. So, at least maybe seventy percent of the songs were already written and done and we brought them in the studio and we finished the songs in the studio. But we found out that this made us not that happy after all, because when you’re in the studio and you start recording and producing the whole shit, everything sounds amazing, everything sounds good, but I think what we missed a little in the last couple of years was really that kind of live feeling. So always when we played old songs live, we saw the difference between the old tracks and the new ones. This is why we changed it back to the way we were ten years ago. So we went back to our practicing room, writing the songs together, jamming and practicing many times. And what came out at the end are twelve songs totally straight right in your face, as we say “they rock” because we were able to feel that when we were in the practicing room. This is the main difference: when we came in the studio, all the songs were 100 percent ready to be recorded. And this is what makes it so different, this is why I personally think that this is by far one of the strongest albums we’ve ever recorded and released.

Downburst seemed like an important album for Brainstorm, as it sounded quite diverse and modern. It actually sounded much like an album Symphorce could have done. How comes the band didn’t continue into this path and explore more this diversity?

I think it became even more diverse when we released Memorial Roots. I think Memorial Roots features a lot of tracks like « The Conjunction Of 7 Planets » and so on. These are tracks that we’ve never written before. But these are not typical songs that fans expect from a Brainstorm album. It was always a problem to say which songs from the album we wanted to play. I think Downburst is still an important album for us and it features a lot of great songs like « Fire Walk with Me » and « Falling Spiral Down ». These are all tracks that will stay in our setlist forever. I think the continuation like what we had in Memorial Roots and especially On The Spur Of The Moment, was a bit too far away from what made us popular. So I think it was very important for us to come back to the point from where we started. The feeling we had when we released Metus Mortis or Soul Temptation for example. And this is what makes it feel so good for us. It feels like a real a hundred percent pure Brainstorm album. I know some of the last albums have featured very interesting songs and very interesting materials. But in the end, it was no fun to play them live. If you record an album and you know from the first time “it would be fun to play these songs live”, that really makes sense when you are in the studio [laugh].

You declared, about this new album, that « Firesoul is breathing the kind of spirit that Soul Temptation and Metus Mortis possess ». Was there a conscious effort from you guys to try to recreate the spirit of those albums?

It was no real intention. It was the feeling that we had when we were on tour and before that, when we had to check out what songs we want to play live. It’s a strange feeling when you have released a new album and you talk about what songs you want to play live and, in the end, what comes out, is that maximum you want to play four tracks… When we have released Soul Temptation and Liquid Monster, for example, we stood there and said “oh, we could play all the songs of the album and have them all be part of the setlist”. Now we have that feeling again and that’s a good feeling. Nobody ever said that “oh, we have to have that feeling again”, but this is what came out. So I think it was very important to release albums like Downburst, Memorial Roots and On The Spur Of The Moment. I think that was very important for us to come back to the point to say especially what Brainstorm is all about in 2014. It’s the spirit that we had when we released Metus Mortis and Soul Temptation, but it’s the sound and the knowing of a band existing for more than 20 years now. So I think it’s really important and actually you can hear that.

« Never ever going to the studio to record an album just for the fact that it’s going to be recorded and released. »

The artwork really reminds of the ones for Soul Temptation and for Metus Mortis. And the word “soul” is also present on this new album’s title. Is there a link between those albums, lyrically?

No! [Laugh] Everyone thinks so but it’s not. We never ever thought about this but yeah, it looks like the gothic girl is holding her hand up to the viewer and so on, but it has nothing to do with Metus Mortis or Soul Temptation album. It brings you back a little bit in that time of course, but this is what came out when I introduced my ideas to the painter, Felipe Machado, who did the cover artwork for the first time. I told him that the person in the middle could be a girl, a politician, a preacher, whoever, it stands for the society, what the society is doing with us, with the human kind, the humans are the skeleton, you know, and they burn you down, they do whatever they want with you and they let you fall into the fire. So this is what came out when I introduced him to my ideas, and that’s what he painted [laugh].The title Firesoul is quite simple: when we started writing the songs for the new album, I really thought that we were able to feel the fire that still burns in our souls, so that’s quite simple to name the album “Firesoul”.

We can see sort of angels on those artworks. Why does this metaphor keep coming back?

Brainstorm: No idea, to be honest [laugh]. I think it looks good and it fits perfectly to the title and to our kind of music. It has nothing to do with the fantasy and stuff. Actually I’m not writing anything about knights or gladiators and so on. It fits perfectly and it looks good, so that’s quite it.

When you announced the disbanding of Symphorce, you mentioned a lack of inspiration as a reason for this. Which is strange since Unrestricted was a very inspired record for which you actually sounded very enthusiastic when it came out. You called Unrestricted the best Symphorce album and said that the small break the band did from 2007 and 2010 turned out to be good for the band. So what have so suddenly brought down the band’s inspiration and passion?

When you want to release an album, it’s not enough to have one, two or three good ideas. Of course, at least you have to go to the studio with 20 or 30 good ideas to record 10 or 15 songs. After we have released the last album, we were really like “ok, more or less, everything was said and done and there’s not enough to be recorded” because we all have our other bands. Markus is really concentrated on his bands and Cédric is doing a lot of bands and different jobs in Switzerland. Dennis and Steffen also have their own bands. So, we are all very busy with our other bands. My intention was simple, it was always to release only 100% albums, never ever going to the studio to record an album just for the fact that it’s going to be recorded and released. Today I must say that there are not that many ideas for a new album, but the record company and two other members of Symphorce also asked me what I think… So, maybe in the future, I don’t know exactly when and how, but someday we’ll record and release another album. But it only makes sense if there are ten tracks on the album that we think are 100% Symphorce. At that moment, when I wrote that, I was fucking empty and I was like “ok, there is nothing else to say”. All the people, they do remind us as a good power prog metal band, or whatever, and that this is something we should keep, and we shouldn’t throw away, because this is really important. I think we’ve done a good job on these seven albums, I think so.

At one point there were some news about a project including you and Manni Schmidt. Where is this project at?

A few years ago, when Manni had left Gravedigger, he asked me to be part of his new band for his project. But I told him that I can’t be a main part of the band. I can do the vocals and probably some of the lyrics but I can’t be responsible for the songs and so on. In the first place, he started writing some of the songs and they sounded fantastic to be very honest. But then, he asked me to write some songs and I said: “no, I can’t do that; I haven’t kept the time for that these days”. If I do write a song, it will probably sound like a Symphorce song [laugh], so it doesn’t make any sense. So, we had to stop it, and he searched for another singer. I told him that if I do a project, I, of course, would love to play live with the band, but just only a few times, that wasn’t his intention though. It was sad, but anyway.

Interview conducted by phone on February, 24th 2014 by Metal’O Phil.
Transcription : Emmanuelle Cappa.
Questions and introduction : Spaceman.

Brainstorm official website: www.brainstorm-web.net

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