Between the release of Blind Guardian’s Legacy of the Dark Lands and the new Demons & Wizards album arriving in February, the wait is finally over for the German singer Hansi Kürsch. Both projects have been well over a decade in the making as Blind Guardian’s orchestral album is referred as one of the most “ambitious projects in metal’s history.” Both Kürsch and guitarist André Olbrich brought the idea to record an orchestral album back in the nineties, and now, the album based on the Markus Heitz book Die Dunklen Lande has arrived on November 8th via Nuclear Blast. We caught up with Kürsch to discuss the orchestral effort, Blind Guardian plans, Demons & Wizards updates, and more.
Looking back, what made you base Legacy of the Dark Lands on the Markus Heitz novel, Die dunklen Lande (“The Dark Lands”)?
We started the songwriting for this album almost 23 years ago. That was when we did Nightfall in Middle-Earth, and we had these orchestral songs, which all spoke a very narrative language already back then. We decided to keep these songs until we would have a full album with just classical music and my singing. Obviously, this has been the case here, and all these songs they were aiming or they were screaming for a conceptual story. But since the whole thing was so gigantic, I felt a little overwhelmed by doing a story on my own for that one. So I got in contact with a German author, Markus Heitz, and I asked him if he was willing to be part of this operation. And he has been very familiar with the Blind Guardian stuff, so he was into it from the very first moment. I’m a big fan of his stuff. He’s a fan of Blind Guardian, so it worked out pretty well. Then we started discussing opportunities for this album and options with regards to the content of the story. And the music was done already, so there was a direction given. Even for him, for the way his story was supposed to move, and where he had to build the climaxes. Saying that he provided me with a frame, which I felt sounded very suitable for me for this conceptual album. And other than that I have had free hand. For me it was the opportunity to work with a good author and to ensure that the album would get the story it deserves.
It looks like this has been the year for you to finish overdue pieces of work. Between Legacy of the Dark Lands and a possible new Demons & Wizards album, how does it feel to finally get this material out to the world?
Well, it’s an overwhelmingly great feeling. I was doing everything possible to have that orchestral album out far, far sooner. But we are a very picky breed, all the guys in Blind Guardian, André, and me in particular, so it took longer than expected, and it almost collided with the Demons & Wizards stuff. But at the very end, everything turned out extremely well, and it is the best of two different worlds I’m able to supply to the people within 12 months. I’m really proud because Legacy of the Dark Lands showcases not only me but also the band Blind Guardian from a completely different angle. It will appeal to people because it’s so different, and it will give impulses to people who are willing to explore something new. While Demons & Wizards, on the other hand, is a very classic heavy metal album with outstanding songs and with very harsh intensity. So for me, I cannot imagine a better set up, providing people with two different albums and both on an extremely high level.
Do you have any special shows planned to bring Legacy of the Dark Lands to life? Or what surprises do you have to celebrate this release?
To celebrate this release, we come empty handed. The only thing I can say is that we have a promise, and that is, we intend to at least showcase Legacy of the Dark Lands with a handful of songs in the year 2021. Because what is coming next for Blind Guardian is the next regular Blind Guardian album. We are going to start production for this heavy metal Blind Guardian album at the beginning of 2020, and we intend to finish the production within the year so that the album can be released at the beginning of 2021. Once that is sorted out, we will, for sure, do some shows for Legacy of the Dark Lands. Most possibly, we will establish the Blind Guardian festival again and then present Legacy of the Dark Lands for the very first time in the Blind Guardian suitable environment.
Sometimes it can be easier for people to put projects on the back burner and to possibly discard it altogether due to losing track of time or what have you. I was curious, what advice do you have for those who wish to one day return to an unfinished project?
Well, I hope this isn’t the case because, for Blind Guardian, it was never an option to throw that into the trashcan and then forget about it. It’s a stupid sentence, but if there’s so much potential in things which may take a while, then give it the time it demands and deserves. It is certainly worth the toil, that’s at least how I feel with regards to Blind Guardian. We are very familiar with longterm projects, anyway. Because even though a normal Blind Guardian album nowadays takes in between three and five years or even longer, so maybe a little bit of training can help, and keeping track of things and trying to improve things sometimes takes awhile. So take the time, and then people will wait, there is no question for me that no matter when you write a good song, or you have a good project with is valuable, it will not lose attraction just because a few years passed by.
With this orchestra album and since you already mentioned there’s going to be a new Blind Guardian album, is there anything else that you can share on what a possible new Blind Guardian album would sound like?
It’s a progressive method of songwriting. It is in the tradition of At the Edge of Time and Beyond the Red Mirror, that’s for sure. It’s very complex. There’s a diversity of different songs from acoustic sounding but still progressive to very harsh and very intense songwriting. I have not given thought to any lyrics. We are finishing the last songs until Christmas and then from January on we’re basically in the production. A lot, of course, will develop during the production, but the sounds themselves, they are very, very fresh. As with every Blind Guardian album, there is no repetition. It really is new songs. We’re talking about new ideas. There is a little more of orchestration on this one than I would have expected after Legacy of the Dark Lands because we have indulged in that passion so much on this particular album. I thought well we might go a little more into the regular Blind Guardian heavy metal direction. And it is in a certain way but there are still some hints in the direction of an orchestra.
Since you’re going to be heavily in the recording process soon, are there going to be any touring plans for maybe like next spring or summer?
I doubt that for Blind Guardian, for sure, because that is when we will be in the intense production period. I assume that is going to happen between February and April, where most of the basic recordings will be settled down, and it’s never a good spot for any shows. I would believe Blind Guardian will start touring in 2021 again. We have a small acoustic set up at the beginning of January for a very small amount of people in our hometown Krefeld, but that’s more like a promotional acoustic show than a real show, so there will be no Blind Guardian shows in 2020. Jon and I discussed the possibility of maybe doing some shows for Demons & Wizards, but this is barely everything I could see with regard to touring activities.
Legacy of the Dark Lands can pair well with acts Therion and Ayreon and, I was thinking, snippets of all three together could be an ideal tour. You’ve also done some work with both bands. Have you ever had any thoughts surrounding an extreme idea like this?
No, not so far. I think that it will be overwhelming for the people because there’s a lot of brainwork or all of these projects. And if you’re listening to that music, that is very entertaining, but it catches a lot of the attention of any listener, so I would rather keep these things completely different. And they all need a certain size in terms of production, and to have that along in one set up seems like a big risk because the production would be too much, I think.
It was wishful thinking.
Yeah, it’s a nice idea to see how these things would go along together or in a row. But it is all so much storytelling, and it takes away the attention from the listener. I think the first one might have the best spot there, which usually is the worst spot. But in that case, because then every listener and viewer is still very fresh. But after two of these big events, the third one would be in big trouble.
Speaking of big events, how was the overall experience of Demons & Wizards’ first North American tour?
It was amazing. I was surprised by the response. Of course, we know that we have a following in North America. And yes, Blind Guardian and Iced Earth are both big bands. Still, considering that the last Demons & Wizards album is also already 14 years old and we didn’t have any additional activities afterward, I thought that the response would be strong but not that strong. I didn’t know there would be many people who would show up. But for them, this might have a once in a lifetime experience, and it might be because we haven’t made any other decisions with regard to touring. The show did everything right, and I believe that what the people witnessed, that was at least my impression, was more of a band feeling than a project. Everyone on stage and everyone related to it took it so seriously, and the people enjoyed a great show, and we prepared a great show, I would say.
Is there anything else you want to say or add about Legacy of the Dark Lands?
Enjoy the album, that’s the main thing. We really tried to give new impulses. To bring fresh inspiration and hope that you can explore new universes with it and that this is a lifelong accomplishment for us and that you are going to enjoy it for a long time of your musical listener career.