Interview with Christian Kolf (Vocals/Guitars)
Germany’s Valborg are one of those few genuine metal acts that offer up a new and completely different experience every time. They’ve played black metal, they’ve played doom, they’ve played death metal and now they’re playing a style of goth metal and rock influenced by bands like Type O Negative and mid-era Anathema. Romantik is just that, as I discussed with Christian Kolf (Vocals/Guitars) who talked to me about the history of the band and the conception of the record, as well as talk of influences, new material and touring.
First of all, tell us a little bit about the history of the band. I know for certain that the music you began playing is definitely nothing like that of Romantik.
We founded the band around ‘02. In the early years we had lots of blastbeats, because our old drummer Patrick Schroeder enjoyed playing fast. We just mixed Black Metal, Hardcore, Doom and Death Metal together as we’ve always been an experimental band. We originally started just to write some songs and record them, nothing more. We vntaully grew to want more, but then we split up. From ‘03 to ‘06 Valborg was just a recording project, with no solid drummer. During this period we experienced more, so experimentation is in our veins and is a part of our roots. In ‘07 we reunited with Patrick, and recorded Glorification Of Pain. We wanted to record live as a whole band and on tape – the old way. So this had a big influence on our songwriting, because we finally started to write songs that were playable. It had to be that way, because we knew it would be stupid to play stuff, that we weren’t able to play tight. So this is how our reduced and primitive side was born. After the recordings, Patrick left and Florian Toyka joined on drums with whom I worked together in bands like Woburn House and Island. He is also the co-founder of Zeitgeister Music. We recorded Crown Of Sorrow, which was different again, inspired by Death and War Metal. Barbarian was a return to the more Doom rock sound, with influences from Power Metal and Glam rock. Nekrodepression was our fucked up bleak black street noise album. With Romantik we made a huge change – we wanted to experiment again.
Unlike your other albums, Romantik feels, well… romantic. It’s dark, surely. But it’s also quite beautiful and rather Gothic. Even compared to the diversity of your previous records, this one is by and large a new experience. Tell us a little bit about it.
Well, we already had enough material ready for a complete album in the vein of our usual style, like a continuation of Nekrodepression, but somehow it didn’t feel right. So one day Jan came up with some ideas he wrote on a synthesizer and we just tried it and felt immediately that it was the right way to go. We talked about doing a slow and atmospheric Doom album since we worked on Barbarian, because we have always been into good old Gothic music.
Many of the metal magazines or tabloids (whatever you want to call them these days) were comparing you to Gothic metal/doom legends, Type 0 Negative. How do you feel about these comparisons? Are they justified? Or do you feel that they may have presented the project in a far different light than you had anticipated?
That’s okay for us. We are all huge Type O Negative fans and somehow the band had a big influence on us. We know what Valborg is about and how the band should sound. This is no conscious decision, we just create these kinds of sounds when we get into a room, that’s what we do. We know that we are somewhat distinct.
Lyrically, tell me a little bit about the thought process behind some of these tracks. What did you want to focus on when you were writing for the record?
The music on Romantik was so beautiful to us, that we felt the urge to write very dark and disturbing lyrics. A friend of mine said that the whole atmosphere is like flirting with a woman on the funeral of her husband. At first we had songtitles and those titles were the inspiration for the lyrics. We were inspired by Cordwainer Smith and Lovecraft. We were focused on disturbance, disgust, horror and space.
What are some of your influences, past and present? What are some interesting acts that you’ve gotten into lately?
When we founded Valborg we were influenced by all the bands we listened in our youth, especially nineties bands like Emperor, Botch, Katatonia, Neurosis, Morbid Angel, old Anathema, Gorgoroth, Abigor, Defleshed and so on. But we were also influenced by our crappy playing abilities and the fact that we tuned our guitars down. In the early days, when we finished a song, we recorded it. Those songs appeared on the demo compilation Songs for a Year, and it became a huge influence on us as well. One of the most interesting new acts of today is Code Orange. They have the right aggression and attitude, they are young, they kick ass, and they just destroy everything.
What do you feel about the state of Goth in terms of this sound and style? I don’t hear it much that often, and almost feel as if it’s a dying art. Do you feel that this is eventually something that will pass, or do you feel that other musical acts will carry on this style for years to come?
If you take a look at the Gothic scene here in Germany – it’s pretty alive. But it’s mostly the EBM stuff, more electronic based Gothic music. I can imagine that the oldschool Gothic rock will have a big comeback in ten or twenty years, maybe like Shoegaze has had a big comeback recently.
As I’ve learned, when you gentlemen make an album, it’s definitely something new and different. Do you consider yourself further pursuing this style in Romantik, or will you be moving into completely different territory?
We are already working on a new album and we have written about twenty songs. This time we will keep on writing just without any boundaries and see which songs will be put on the new album. The new material is more straight-forward with shorter and faster songs. We want to keep the atmosphere, but get more aggressive again. But anything is possible and everything can change.
What sorts of things do you gentlemen enjoy outside of the musical realm? What are some things about you that we would never guess otherwise?
Besides the usual stuff that everybody does, I just like to create music. That’s it.
What are some of your best moments during the live shows? What are some artists that you have been privilged to work with in the past? What are some of your less memorable moments during the live performances?
We recently came back from a tour in Romania with Bloodway and Perihelion. The tour was organized by Bloodway mastermind Costin Chioreanu. Most people know him from his amazing illustrations for bands like At The Gates, Napalm Death, Arch Enemy and so on.This tour was the best experience ever so far. It’s hard to explain. But the whole vibe was great, the people in the audience were full of energy. What we gave, came back to us. People went insane and we were blown away, because we mostly play shows in Germany and countries around, where people are more reserved. We are very happy that we could tour this beautiful country with such amazing people. It was not about success, more about a social experience. Everybody left with a lot of enthusiasm and fulfilment in their hearts. There will always be bad experience some days. But it’s the usual stuff like eternal waiting, bad accomodations, bad food or stupid promoters. This will never stop, but you will always get over it. Yet when the good experience comes, and sometimes you’ll wait more than three years for this – all of the bad stuff gets washed away.
We thank you very much for the opportunity and I’m quite happy with the album. I’ve been listening to it during the interview and I think I have even more of an appreciation for it. – Eric
Thank you so much, Eric. I think Romantik needs to be listened to in a whole and some more times. Hopefully it is a “grower” album that will mean something to people even in ten years.
Buy Romantik here: https://templeoftorturous.bandcamp.com/album/romantik