BLACK MAJESTY - INTERVIEW
Sept 25, 2005
With the Australian melodic metal scene particularly strong at present, it came as no surprise when Black Majesty followed up their impressive debut album 'Sands Of Time' with an even bigger sounding 'Silent Company' in 2005. The debut showed mountains of promise, and that promise was delivered on.
In a gutsy move the band took a gamble and decided to launch the album with some European gigs, including supporting Hammerfall and Edguy. It would be their first overseas tour and the guys put it together themselves, logistically and financially, with some notable help from their label Limb Music. Not long after returning from the very successful tour Black Majesty guitarist Steve Janevski gave me a run down on how things went.
'The trip to Europe was a blast! We did a bunch of promo for the new album by doing lots of interviews and a few big shows. The highlights were the Headbangers Open Air Festival in Germany and the Plzen Metal Festival in the Czech Republic supporting Hammerfall and Edguy. Both of these gigs in particular put us in front of the biggest crowds we've ever played to and I think we gained many new fans from the shows. We sold a bunch of merchandise and especially lots of the new cd.'
Obviously a big thrill for the guys to play to an unknown audience and get a positive response, both on stage and through purchases of the new cd. Was the band ever concerned about how they would be received on their first overseas tour? 'I guess it was a case of the band being eager to get over to Europe in general. I can't say we were concerned in such words as Europe is the main place we've sold most of our albums. If anything I think we were excited by the idea of playing to European crowds but at the same time there's always the question of how we'd go down.. especially at the Headbangers Open Air Festival in Germany or Hammerfall/Edguy shows as we're a pretty much a new band. In the end we were pretty overwhelmed as the reception was always positive! For instance it's such a payoff to have people want to get their cds signed and take photos with the band. This was especially the case after the Hammerfall/Edguy support. Our singer John actually found the audience a bit more willing to get into the music and be part of the show.
Our own shows in the Czech Republic were also quite a buzz as these weren't support gigs. We were the main drawcard. It was also great to play some of our own shows at the Headbangers Ballroom, Klub Kain and Hells Bells. These shows gave us the opportunity to play longer sets which I think the audience really enjoyed' It was so satisfying to see the crowd get into the music. The language barrier wasn't really a problem as many Europeans do speak some English'. Even more support came from their heavyweight metal counterparts. 'The guys from Hammerfall and Edguy were really supportive. A few of them watched our show from the side of the show and they gave us some great feedback. A great bunch of guys. We've got a few photos already up on our website.' Overall the response to 'Silent Company' from the metal media has been very positive and Steve is certainly happy about that. 'Yeah we've had a really good response even at this early stage. The album has been out for a good month now and we're pretty happy with the scores/ratings we have been getting from the media. There are always going to be a few people who don't like your album or direction but you take the good with the bad and vice versa. Germany's leading metal magazines like Rock Hard and Heavy (Heavy Oder was!) gave it good marks as did Japan's Burrn! So far so good!'
The bad that Steve is referring to is a review I mentioned to him that had inexplicably compared 'Silent Company' to AOR fluff!!! Personally I think that reviewer needs to pull his head out of his ass, but Steve is more diplomatic. 'As I said you take the good with the bad and vice versa. It is a bit frustrating when you read reviews that don't really get what you are about but that's life I guess. Personally, I think people who don't like the style shouldn't review it but that's my opinion.'
One of the aspects of the new album that caught my attention is the first rate production, which was handled by Endel Rivers again, with help from someone called Piet Sielck? (just kidding). Limb Music was behind that move and it paid off with excellent results. 'Limb was the one who initially suggested we work with Piet. As it turns out we were really happy with our finished product and experience.' However, it was only Pavel and Hanny who went over to Germany. I asked Steve why they were the lucky ones. 'Our drummer Pavel is originally from the Czech Republic and after living in Australia for four years he went back to visit his family back in Europe whilst we demoed up songs for the new album. Since he was already in Europe and not far from Germany we thought we'd jump at the chance to begin the album with someone like Piet of Iron Savior and utilize his skill and experience to bring up the production of the album. Hanny flew over to Germany to meet him and from there they laid down the drums.
Piet was really cool and the guys can't stop raving about how much they learnt from the experience. After completing the drums we brought the recording back to Australia and completed the remainder of the recording with Endel Rivers who recorded our debut album Sands of Time. We knew what to expect with Endel and had a clear vision of what we wanted to record as we had demos of the songs which already had been fine tuned before hand. The album was mastered in Germany which also gives the album a better production.'
Though only 2 of the band managed to record with Piet, it is not the same situation when it comes to writing. Everyone has a hand in the song writing. Stevie explains the process in greater depth. 'Every member writes in Black Majesty. We normally bring two or three ideas each to the table and work on them from there as a band. Most often the music comes first, then the vocal melody and finally the lyrics. We try and do what's right for the song. Some songs are finished quickly for instance the song Darkened Room was the last track written for the album but came about really fast. On the other hand some songs need more work. The opening track Dragon Reborn was a case of changing structures and arrangements until it worked. If a song needs complex arrangements then so be it but sometimes it's the simplest things that work and in many ways most memorable for the listener.'
A couple of points I was eager to cover are the choice of Six Ribbons as a cover song, and the album artwork. First off Stevie tackles the Six Ribbons question. 'I'm to blame for recording that song! LOL. I always thought Six Ribbons was a great song and when I suggested it to the band they were keen also. Jon English had a string of hits in the seventies in Australia and Six Ribbons was the lead song from the Gone with the Wind tv mini series. We wanted to do an Australian cover song and felt Six Ribbons would fit perfectly with its Celtic feel, especially done in a metal way. The original version by Jon English is an all acoustic track without drums etc. We added distorted guitars, drums and some different arrangement ideas which gave it more of a Black Majesty feel. We're all pretty happy with the way it came up.'
In the past there has been some criticism of the artwork for Limb Music artists, in that they do look quite similar and have a common theme. That is not a concern for Stevie. In fact he is quite happy with the artwork for 'Silent Company'. 'Limb definitely has their own style of what they like and yes I agree many of the bands do have that certain style to the album covers that immediately makes you think it is a Limb release. I'm pretty okay with that as I understand where they're coming from. They like that traditional influence where album covers give off a theme somewhat medieval, for instance album covers like Iron Maiden's and Dio's.
We've worked on both album covers with a guy named Dirk Illing and we're pretty happy all up. Dirk has his own style and I like that. Even with two or three colours the album stands out as a pretty classy piece of work. We've got the Black Majesty woman on both covers in somewhat of a Sci-fi theme and on the latest with her Silent Company - the lion overlooking her. The lion ties in perfectly being majestic.'
So everything is in place for Black Majesty. They've got an album that is getting a bunch of praise. Their live show is kicking ass on the other side of the world and they have got Edguy, Hammerfall and Piet Sielck on speed dial. The future is looking pretty rosy, but Black Majesty are not getting too ahead of themselves. 'We have a few ideas for the third album but it's early days yet. They really are skeletons of song ideas and will need a lot of work. Our main focus is to promote the new album as much as possible through interviews and live shows. We have a few live shows coming up including our Melbourne album launch. After this we'll launch the album in places like Sydney and Adelaide and from there probably go out with some other bands on kind of a package tour around Australia. I know the guys from Vanishing Point and Eyefear have expressed interest so it all looks good for a pretty 'metal' 2006 tour wise!'
Black Majesty - 2002 Sands Of Time (Promo)Black Majesty - 2002 Interview with Steve JanevskiBlack Majesty - 2003 Sands Of TimeBlack Majesty - 2005 Silent CompanyBlack Majesty - 2005 Interview with Steve JanevskiBlack Majesty - 2007 TomorrowlandBlack Majesty - 2010 In Your Honour
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