Regarded as Switzerland’s hottest new Metal band, Burning Witches are flying the flag for Heavy Metal’s classic sound with each studio album, and with this being their most adventurous to date, it’s no surprise that the metal world is taking notice of these five ladies.
Vocalist Laura Guldemond talks to us about the new album, touring plans, her very own YouTube video series, and much more…
OD – Let’s start with the new album ‘The Witch of the North’ [released on May 28th] this is the all-important second album for your time in the band. Can you talk me through when the writing officially began for this LP, as I know that Romana [Kalkuhl, guitars] was channeling Amon Amarth vibe, and you were researching Norse mythology, was it a little overwhelming at times writing in this form?
LAURA – Actually, Romana already had a few ideas lying around up to a year ago. However, our system of writing is that we kind of work on things very slowly…to get a true sense of what the material is sounding like and also to guide us in the particular direction of the overall body of work.
So, I would say we really starting writing like crazy by the end of Summer last year because we know we had to record the album in December. And then from that period, we focused so much on the album that was the same kind of process as ‘Dance With the Devil‘.
I think it’s great to have a little bit of pressure behind us, it’s kind of like a kick in the ass. Of course, I’m only speaking from my own point of view. That type of pressure works for me. [Laughing]
OD -There is a sense of more story-telling on this album. Do you ever think that Burning Witches will ever try a full-blown concept album, or is that not really something that you’re interested in?
LAURA – I would consider it for sure. I know it’s probably more work because everything has to flow together. I sure it could get a little stressful at times…trying to get a good storyline that fits with the overall music and atmosphere, but yes, we would definitely consider a concept album. I mean, I feel like the more often you write stuff, the easier it gets to write stuff. Do you know what I mean? Perhaps this is something that we may look at a few albums down the line.
OD – The timeline of albums from the band is very quick when compared to the average wait. Is this because Burning Witches are a band that literally doesn’t stop working?
LAURA – Not really [Laughing]. When we really begin to focus on writing a lot of things begin to happen quickly. Romana really brings a lot of ideas to the table, and in this case, she [Romana] had a bunch of songs ready to lay down as soon as we started really focusing on the writing side of things.
Me personally, I tend to write all my ideas down. I could be in the shower and suddenly an idea will come into my head and I quickly make a note of it so I don’t forget.
Also, sometimes ideas will come to me randomly either from something I’ve read, watched, or heard. As long as I make a note of the ideas, I can revisit them and perhaps something will come of it.
Sometimes I’ll have to just pull some ideas together quickly, like when Romana told me: “The title/theme of the next album is going to be “Witch of the North” and I was like: “Oh, okay, I better get to work on that right away“. [Laughing] I had to work on concepts that were very specific to the theme of the album and to be honest, I really enjoyed the whole process.
OD – I can imagine that it’s quite a big challenge to go into that world, but I’m sure it was very rewarding for you. You enjoyed it, obviously.
LAURA – Actually, in the beginning, I was thinking: “Oh, is this actually a good thing? What can I do with this?“. But once I started thinking about it all the inspiration began to take hold. When when I found out there were a lot of things that I could do with Norse Mythology, then I got really excited about so many cool ideas and was very inspired by all the information that I was discovering.
When I think about writing about personal stuff that happens in my life compared to a theme like ‘The Witch of the North, there really is so much more to write about. Nothing really exciting happens in my life! [Laughing]
OD – As mentioned, this is your second album with the girls, [the first being 2020’s ‘Dance With The Devil’]. This time around do you feel that you’ve settled into the role with reference to stretching your creative abilities?
LAURA – Yeah, I am a little more relaxed on this album but of course I was still super-focused in the studio. This time around I noticed that at the end of the recording process, my voice was less tired/strained.
I totally noticed that I got more used to everything because I would seem a little bit distorted on previous projects. But, you know, the projects I had before, were never distorted, so I didn’t have to use certain techniques that much.
OD – There is no question that you get to flex your vocal ability on this album, did you find anything a little more challenging as this is a little heavier than ‘Dance…’?
LAURA – I think both are equally challenging because I always like to push how far I can go with my vocals. There are a lot more dynamics on this album than the previous LP. We chose to have the storytelling fixed on the album and have very big dynamics where it goes from a clear strong vocal to totally bad-ass brutal stuff.
OD – The band’s sound is very much in the vein of old-school NWOBHM and Classic Heavy metal, do you find that there is a resurgence with this genre in the last few years, especially with bands like Priest releasing such strong additions to their discography?
LAURA – I think we just passed the peak of the ‘resurgence‘. But it’s totally still happening. I think we’re just already past the peak of what’s happening. Of course, this is just my opinion so I could very well be wrong. We’ll just have to see what else happens in the coming months/years.
OD – Romana has said in previous statements that the album was made was created with “no pressure at all”. Would you say that the pandemic lockdown gave you all a lot more time to just relax into the album’s creation/recording?
LAURA – Yeah, exactly! [Laughing] We didn’t have all the gigs in between writing and recording like we did with ‘Dance…‘ It was way more relaxed in that regard but as I said earlier I kind of thrive on some level of pressure and there was some of that also. It was great having the extra time and if anything, it really helped us all to clear our minds and completely focus on the task at hand.
OD – With regards to the cover track, ‘Hall to the Mountain King’ [Savatage] who’s idea was it to cover that track, and also was it a bit nerve-wracking to have Chris Caffer [Savatage guitarist] come in on the project to record his solos?
LAURA – Well, it was my idea to do a cover of the track but I wasn’t the one that contacted him. It’s very cool that he agreed to do it and we’re all so happy with the way the track turned out. Of course, we were a little nervous because you know…we’re doing someone else’s song and they are actually going to be involved with it also. Overall, it was just awesome that Chris took the time to get involved with it.
OD – I’ve noticed that you have been busy with your online vocal training YouTube videos, have you found that doing these videos and helping people with techniques, etc. has also helped you with your own voice and your ability to grow and try new things?
LAURA – Yeah, actually, I do like to watch videos sometimes, specifically with techniques. I’m not that comfortable with, as of yet, and I find it’s a really great way to push my vocal abilities so much further, especially since we’ve been stuck at home for the last year.
When I record and upload my own videos, I find that I’m sharing my knowledge and in doing so, I’m actually learning more and more about my own voice every day as well as learning new things from other people.
The reason why I wanted to make these videos and just very short is because I remember back when I was trying to find information on certain techniques it was difficult to find videos that explain exactly the thing that I wanted to know. So, I wanted to keep it short, simple and focused on the subject or question. That’s why the videos are just five minutes.
OD – In your opinion, what have you noticed to be an issue for the band, or you personally in this business, that you’d like to see change?
LAURA – I think it would be cool if Metal was appreciated a little more by the mainstream media. I’m noticing a lot of movies are using more classic ’80s tracks in the background. I’ve seen loads of stuff on Netflix that has some great music buried in the background. Hopefully, that will catch on and Rock/Metal will see bigger interest in the years to come.
OD – Primal Fear will be taking you out on the road and then you head off to America. I’m guessing there’s gonna be a hell of a lot of touring off the back of this album when and if you can eventually get out there?
LAURA – I really hope so. [Laughing]. We do hope to go to Japan, North America, South America, Europe, and hopefully Australia, too. I don’t know any concrete plans as of yet.
OD – Coming from the Netherlands, there’s been a very passionate love of metal for generations. Do you feel that the genre is still represented well and with festivals such as Dynamo etc do you feel that they are giving rising bands a chance?
LAURA – Yes, Metal still has a good presence in the Netherlands and the reason why is the stages at the venues are subsidised, so, they’re pretty high quality and accessible for tours to pass through the country.
The Metal culture at the moment is not melodic enough to the main genre around at the moment are mostly Death Metal and “Core” and if you’re not really playing that style, it’s kind of hard to get gigs. But I feel that the tastes of the public are changing as they always do and a more melodic style of heavy music is rising.
OD – As a respected vocalist, who do you look upon as a big inspiration?
LAURA – Hmm it’s difficult to choose one because I have so many vocalists that I really love. For example, when I started to really take my singing seriously, I would look at singing in a clean melodic voice and also in a distorted voice and I’ve got a lot of respect for singers that specialise in both of those styles.
Like Lizzy Hale [Halestorm] she has a very tough and strong vocal technique, that I love, because of her husky, distorted delivery, but then there’s Sia, who’s a Pop singer but has a voice that I really like. I really love many vocalists and in some ways, I am inspired by a little bit of all the vocalists I admire and enjoy.
That’s one of the very cool things about Burning Witches, we have a lot happening in the music and are very versatile when it comes to melody and sound.
OD – If you could do a duet with any other vocalist, who would that be?
LAURA – Let’s do something stupid. [Laughing] I’m gonna say, Miley Cyrus! I know she’s a Pop Artist, but she can really sing anything and has a very versatile voice.
Burning Witches ‘Witch of the North‘ is out NOW via Nuclear Blast Records. Pick up your copy via this link.