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Thronehammer have returned with a new album, 'Incantation Rites', and an expanded line-up. Vocalist Kat Shevil Gillham talks to Comrade Aleks about the changes and challenges for the UK/German Trad Doom collective.

Interview with Thronehammer.
"International band Thronehammer has continued its grim pilgrimage to pits of macabre Traditional Doom, despite all the obstacles the scene faced alongside the quarantine. Formed in 2012, Thronehammer recorded debut full-length 'Usurper of the Oaken Throne' in 2019, and quite efficiently returned with sophomore 'Incantation Rites' on March 4th this year, while the band has grown from a trio to a full quintet. Stuart West is known as a member of Obelyskkh, and he was Thronehammer's creator. Tim HammerSmith joined him in around 2019, having practiced good old Doom with Seamount and Naked Star, two nice Bavarian bands. Old school doomers may remember British act Blessed Realm: Kat Shevil Gillham started out there. Seamount's bassist Markus Stroehlein joined them as drummer and Uwe Void (guitarist from Absent/Minded) took on bass for 'Incantation Rites'. A kind of underground doom metal dream team, isn't it - why not talk about it?!"

Thronehammer: Kat Shevil Gillham (Vocals), Markus Ströhlein (Drums), Tim HammerSmith (Guitar), Stuart West (Guitar/Synths), Uwe Void(Bass).

Hi Kat! How are you? How strict are the rules of quarantine in your area?

Hi Aleksey. Things are fine here in north east England thanks! We are just coming out of a strict 3 month national lockdown here in England, although in this part of England all restaurants/bars have been closed since early November so we have pretty much been under very tight and strict restrictions since then, 5 months or so.

My bandmates in Germany have been in more or less the same situation with lockdowns over there which is still ongoing so we were very lucky we could get Markus down from Berlin to Nuremberg last November to do the drum tracking for our new album there!!.

'Incantation Rites' is released now, accept my congratulations! How long did you work on these songs? Was it a natural process this time, or did you make yourself move forward, as everything tends to change today, to a future far less predictable than before?

Thank you!

The songwriting for this album began in late 2019 but really gained momentum in the first half of 2020 then I started working on vocal lines and lyrics late spring/early summer last year as soon as I was sent files of the new material, I spent all summer working on vocals at home before hitting a local studio here in September which is in Durham City (Rocking Horse, where I also did the vocal tracking for our debut album and the split 10" with a guy called Neil Combstock, its only 10 minutes walk from my apartment), I spent a month tracking vocals and then Uwe and Markus followed with drum tracking and bass a month or so after (I tracked vocals to programmed drums) so this album came together VERY QUICKLY due to various reasons, lockdown and lack of touring and live shows (and rehearsing for them) being a couple.

Thronehammer consists of five members - four of the band are in Germany, while you live in the UK. You worked at a distance over 'Usurper of the Oaken Throne', did the quarantine affect recording of 'Incantation Rites'?

No not at all. It was a very smooth process and music and vocal files were transferred between Germany and England no problem. If anything lockdown gave us the opportunity to focus more on refining this new material.

We pretty much worked exactly the same way we did for the recording process of the debut album with the main difference being Markus tracking his live drums at a studio in Nuremberg this time.

By the way, you recorded the debut album as a trio, how did it happen that Thronehammer's line-up increased? Five members, for an international project with no chance to play live... you know...

Well Markus and Uwe who play drums and bass on this new album have been a fully integrated part of Thronehammer since 2019, they joined us for our first ever live shows and tour with Lord Vicar in May 2019, at that time Markus was on bass and Uwe on guitar but by the time it came to do our second tour across Germany in October/November 2019 Markus had moved onto drums which is his main instrument and Uwe also moved onto bass so Tim could move onto his main instrument guitar (Tim played drums/bass on debut album and drums on first tour) so it made sense to add both Markus and Uwe into the recording line up for the new album and become a full band.

They fit so great into the band and on this new album and are great people as well as great musicians. Uwe was actually involved with the band before myself and Tim joined actually but this is the first recording he has played on.

Three of the band members live close to each other in the Southern Germany area of Franconia (also known as Bavaria) close to the cities of Nuremberg, Bamberg and Würzburg with Markus living up in Berlin. So I am the only non German member. The distance isn't an issue, we make things work.

Thronehammer - 'Incantation Rites' (Teaser, 2021):

One more thing is that doom is one of the less popular traditional doom genres (if you aren't Candlemass or Pentagram). Has the "amount" of feedback dropped during the lockdown? No gigs, no fun, people are occupied with more down to earth questions?

We have had a lot of interest from people and the music media regarding the new album and received a great response so far, so hopefully we can go out and play some live shows in support of it as soon as it is safe and possible to do so, it obviously is very frustrating not being able to play live at the moment and we have already had shows in Germany and Switzerland postponed both last summer in 2020 and also this summer in 2021 but it is the same for every band, we just have to be patient and then get out and tour the new album/play the new material live as soon as possible.

Without live shows people seem to be turning their attention to buying a lot of music online but obviously playing live to promote an album is very important usually. We will hopefully be back on a stage by early 2021 at the latest. I am definitely starting to really miss playing live, I am sure the rest of the guys are feeling the same way.

What were the most difficult moments for you during this recording session?

Running out of cider! Haha.

I can only speak for myself here but I think challenging myself vocally and being very strict with myself in the studio, I scrapped plenty of vocal takes and redid them because I felt I could do a better take and now I am very happy with how the vocals turned out and sound on this new album.

Apple or pear cider? And doesn't cold drink affect the vocal chords?

Always apple cider. I find cold drinks help my vocals, as long as the vocal chords are lubricated all is fine!

'Incantation Rites' continues the line of 'Usurper of the Oaken Throne' as you follow the same quite old school Doom ways. How do you see the core differences between the albums?

The new album is much more varied but there's definitely similarities to the debut album, we kept some of the factors of Usurper of the Oaken Throne such as crushing heavy riffs that will bludgeon your senses and an epic atmosphere.

The new album is definitely more varied and diverse, there's a lot more going on, lots of twists and turns tempo wise from the slowest moving doom to uptempo epic extremity, we have some of our shortest songs so far on this album as well as some lengthy epic tracks including our longest song to date "Of Mountaintops and Glacial Tombs". Incantation Rites takes you on a journey into mystery through vast sonic soundscapes.

It is a progression in every way, a bold step forward for us collectively.

And as mentioned before we also have 2 other very talented members playing on this album namely Markus Ströhlein (Seamount, Naked Star) on drums and Uwe Void (Absent/Minded) on bass, both of whom have been part of the live Thronehammer line up since our very first show together in Würzburg in May 2019 on the first date of the tour we did with our friends/label mates Lord Vicar. Markus is an excellent drummer who has really stamped his own style on these songs and Uwe is a great solid bassist. So this album features contributions from more people.

Another difference is that the material was written between Stuart (West, guitar) and Tim (Hammersmith, guitar), they worked very closely together writing and recording the music for this new album and tracked/wrote/rehearsed together at Tim's home studio in the Würzburg area.

I think the new album is also definitely more punchier and riff orientated, almost more hardrock in parts with the song structures but also more melodic, there is a definite 90's British gothic doom/Katatonia vibe in places to my ears.

But we have kept enough of the elements of the debut album to please fans of the debut I think. It is just a more refined and diverse album all round.

Thronehammer - 'A Fading King' (Official Lyric, 2020):

Speaking about "bludgeoning riffs"… Some bands make a huge emphasis on that - like Conan for example. How do you see the perfect balance of riffs and melody in Thronehammer?

I think we have the perfect balance between melody and crushing riffs, we don't just rely on riffs to mostly make an impact we also use melody and the vocals to make things sound very atmospheric and dynamic. We are definitely much more than a one trick pony.

What do you mean when you mention "British Gothic Doom"? Some would tell you "gothic doom is doom death with violin", another would pick "doom death with both growling and female vocals", some will point to Paradise Lost's 'Draconian Times' (I don't understand that point). But if you ask me then my choice is Swedish band Stillborn with their debut 'Necrospirituals' (1989) where they mix Mercy-styled doom metal with Fields of the Nephilim-styled vocals. Check their track 'I, the Stillborn'. Jack Frost maybe.

I am referring more to earlier Paradise Lost and bands such as early Katatonia who have that big Paradise Lost influence in their sound. There's a definite PL and Katatonia influence in parts of our new album. I love Stillborn, a great and underrated band, same goes for Jack Frost, been a fan of both bands since the early-mid 90's. My old doom metal band Blessed Realm played a show in Linz, Austria with Jack Frost back in summer 1996.

Full-length discography: 'Usurper of the Oaken Throne' (The Church Within, 2019), 'Incantation Rites' (Supreme Chaos, 2021).

What are your new songs about? Do you hold on to the same horror fantasy topics?

There are some similarities lyrically to the debut album, the subject of battles, medieval warfare and warfare throughout the centuries, ancient kingdoms, fearless old warriors fighting around fortresses and strongholds etc is present on the new album lyrically but the title track is more influenced by occultism and satanism, my personal interest and indulging in Luciferian satanism literature definitely crossed over into that song lyrically.

Some of the lyrics just take you on a journey through fantastical epic landscapes full of ancient castles, vast towering horizons, gloomy fog filled mountainsides, forlorn frostbitten forests and desolate snow covered cavernous passes.

What's with your other bands? Naked Star, Seamount, Uncoffined?

Seamount were due to play a show at Hammer Of Doom Festival in Germany last year but due to Covid that got postponed, maybes it will happen later this year?

Not sure about Naked Star, they seem to be on a hiatus at this time, Uncoffined is writing for our second album, very slowly but it is being worked on. I am also busy with two newer projects Nine Altars, a traditional/epic doom metal band where I play drums and do vocals (all clean sung), and Enshroudment, a funeral doom/death band where I also do drums and vocals although this band is more in the style of bands such as Morgion, Mourning Beloveth, early Anathema, early My Dying Bride, Thergothon, Evoken etc with mostly growled vocals.

Winds of Genocide and Lucifer's Chalice are also still active and working on material for new releases.

How soon do you think Nine Altars and Enshroudment will release something?

Enshroudment will finish up an EP titled As The Light Is Extinguished in the coming weeks, we originally started recording it in late 2017 but due to various reasons the rest of the tracking was delayed, I did the drum tracking and vocal tracking for it in November 2017 but will redo some vocal parts when we go back into the studio. Nine Altars has material written for a debut recording and we will record these songs later in the year, this recording will be title The Eternal Penance.

What makes you keep following the Doom path? There are no free places on the Doom mountain top, and it seems the number of Doom followers who are open for new bands is quite limited. The average amount of "likes" on relatively new bands' profiles is almost the same.

We just love playing this kind of music and all of us have been playing doom in one form or another and slow heavy music in various bands for a LONG time now.

We are passionate doom fans ourselves, we don't give a flying fuck about trends we just do what we do because we enjoy it. I've personally been playing Doom since the mid 90's so thats almost 3 decades now since I formed my first doom band.

It's in the blood, we are doomed 'til death!

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Interviewed on 2021-04-25 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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