When all touring plans came to a halt, Burning Witches used that time to focus writing on their new album, The Witch of the North, which is out now via Nuclear Blast. We caught up with vocalist Laura Guldemond to discuss the new record and working with new guitarist Larissa Ernst.
What was it like recording The Witch of the North during a pandemic?
For me, it was kind of the same as normal. The only thing different was if you had to travel. I live in The Netherlands and everyone’s in Switzerland. There weren’t that many heavy restrictions, so everyone could visit and go wherever they wanted. I could get an invite and because then I was working. I wouldn’t have to stay 10 days in quarantine. So it was okay, but you did have to keep an eye on all the rules because they change every week or something. Of course, it was easy to focus because all the gigs were canceled. So it was easy to focus on. Last time we wrote the album, it was in between gigs sometimes and now it was just, “Let’s write.” Nothing else to do.
So you had more time to write this one. I feel like you guys just released Dance With The Devil.
I feel like we didn’t do enough gigs with it.
How was the creative process with the addition of Larissa?
Yeah. It was great especially for Romana, because they could record together. They all now live in the same city except for me. So that’s easy. That was kind of the only big difference with it.
How would you compare The Witch of the North to Dance with the Devil?
I would say it’s mainly a little bit different because we consciously chose to have more story-based songs. So more of this epic feel and a lot of the old metal albums, they have a lot of these storytelling songs. We wanted to do something like that a little bit more. It’s not every song, but there are definitely more songs that are a little bit more elaborate than before. So because of that, I think that’s the reason why they’ve got more dynamics in the songs, because you have the soft intro and then all of a sudden, the song really blasts out of the speakers in the next part. It amps up the dynamics.
We chose a theme again just with Hexenhammer. We chose the witches being persecuted and being written down in this Hexenhammer thing, but now we really actually did something totally different. Romana played a riff and that’s how it started. It sounded super frightening-ish. Of course, we’re a folk metal band, but we thought, “Hey, it’s really cool to do something with Witch of the North.”
That’s basically all they taught me and then I kind of panicked for a short moment. I was like, “Oh. Oh, we’re going to do this. Oh, okay. What now?” But the more I looked into all the mythology and what was happening there, I really, really loved the idea and I totally got into it, I did some research and yeah. It’s so cool, these northern mythologies and cultures. All the puzzle pieces fell together and I really loved doing it like this actually.
Were there any songs that were actually more challenging for you?
Actually, one of the most challenging, and that’s because it stays high throughout the melodies is Tainted Ritual. For some reason, it’s very difficult for me. Now it is okay because I practiced, but I really was happy that I could practice a bit of those. Actually, also the chorus of Witch of the North. I always try to have a bit of dynamics in between the versus and the choruses and I felt it just had to be higher, but it was … To be honest, it was crazy high for me to still sound nice. It’s so squeaky high. I needed to really focus on making it sound less squeaky on the high notes, but I didn’t want to sound like that. If you put a bit of distortion on top of it … It can still sound squeaky because it’s so crazy. I never do melodies. I did all the screams this high, but never really the melodies and this was one big scream. So I was totally happy I had some time to practice before.
What are some things that you’ve learned from this pandemic?
I learned actually because … Yeah. It’s got nothing to do with being in a band or something but in general, I learned now that I am an introvert but I’m not that introverted that I like to be on lockdown. I actually really started to miss seeing people. I was really seeing less people than I would ideally want to see during a day. That’s weird because normally I’m like, “Oh, I’m happy today is over and I’m alone.” That was something weird to experience.
I can definitely relate. I’m an introvert as well, but I do miss seeing some faces. Is there anything else that you wanted to say or add about the album?
One other thing I want to say about the album. Did you notice there’s also a cover like we traditionally do? Not everyone noticed because it’s actually a bonus track for Japanese things, like a limited edition. We did Hall of the Mountain King. We just love that song because it’s also a little bit storytelling-based. It really fits the album also and I love the singer. I love songwriting. It’s all so cool. I actually proposed it and they immediately said yes and then I thought I was fucked because it’s actually such a good singer. You don’t want to fuck it up, but in the end, I’m actually happy with the result.
Is there a certain cover song you would like to do on another album?
I would love to do something of Wasp someday because Wasp is really one of the things I listen to most when I started listening to metal, so that would be cool. Maybe we could do I Want to Be Somebody or something. That definitely rocks out but then we have to do an album I guess with Dance with the Devil again. So maybe if we do something like that, then that album … That cover would be great. Now I’m not sure because we didn’t start writing yet, so I wouldn’t know what would fit because we didn’t really think about it in depth yet.
I do have some ideas and I really love the story writing … The team-based writing. I really like that because it makes it almost easier for me to have inspiration. So if you’re wondering what is the secret of releasing something so fast, again, it’s just the more specific you get, the easier it gets to write actually. So this definitely helps. It was actually also fun of course. There are not any gigs anyway to do so we have time. I would hope that we do something like that again for the next album. I have a cool idea for it, but we’ll see what happens. Let’s hope we can do some gigs before that at least.
I was curious because you released the album so fast. Were you guys planning to release an album every year? Like how artists used to do it back in the day?
Yes, exactly. I do know a few bands that did that in the 80s when it exploded. There were definitely a lot of bands that did that. Yeah. I don’t think we necessarily have to do it, but I do like writing, so why not? But let’s see what happens.