Interview with guitarist and bassist Torsten Horstmann
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: March 27, 2013
Germany's Sulphur Aeon give us some Lovecraftian, epic and atmospheric Death Metal on their debut studio album, Swallowed by the Ocean's Tide, released jointly by FDA Rekotz and Imperium Productions in 2012. Sulphur Aeon was formed only two years ago, but the band has already gained a reputation as one of the finest new Death Metal bands today.
Founding member Torsten Horstmann took some time to share Sulphur Aeon's plans and answer our curious inquiries...
Luxi: How's life Torsten? What were you doing before this interview?
Torsten: Nothing special; went to the gym, did some cooking, played guitar and now just enjoying the rest of my day off with a cold beer.
Luxi: OK let's talk about your epic, dark Death Metal band Sulphur Aeon, if you don't mind. First off, could you tell us what inspired you to form Sulphur Aeon? Was it easy to find like-minded fellows and start churning out heavy, dark and monstrously epic Death Metal?
Torsten: It began when I quit my former band and just wanted to make music without any compromises or discussions. I was really fed up with band constellations and all the problems they bring with them. I asked a friend to introduce me to home recording so that I could start realizing my ideas. Since then I have just let things flow and the results were the songs on the Sulphur Psalms tape. The "search" for the right vocalist was no search at all because M. is my neighbor and the first person that came to mind. I always liked his voice and after listening to the recordings he agreed to become a part of Sulphur Aeon. With D. it was nearly the same; I have known him for a long time from my other band. After doing the drums on the 7" we offered him the job as our permanent drummer and he didn't hesitate. Sulphur Aeon will remain a 3-piece because I want to write the music myself. I'm really happy to have these guys by my side.
Luxi: What kind of things inspired or influenced you when you started creating music under the Sulphur Aeon moniker, and would you say they have been stayed the same the past 2-3 years?
Torsten: I can't say exactly what inspired me. It was just the will to create songs, songs that evolve naturally. As I said, I just let ideas flow. There were no special bands or any such thing I was thinking about. The only thing that was clear was that it would be Death Metal without strict boundaries. When it comes to lyrics and the concept of the whole band the great master of cosmic horror, H.P. Lovecraft, became more and more a source of inspiration.
Luxi: How did you choose the name Sulphur Aeon?
Torsten: Let's say it's not that easy to find a good name nowadays; most words have already been used and combined. I wanted something strong and catchy and that had an apocalyptic vibe. Sulphur Aeon just came to my mind and I think it fits our sound perfectly.
Luxi: Swallowed by the Ocean's Tide is your debut album and it is loaded with Death Metal that goes through every cell, leaving one feeling mangled and exhausted, in a positive way, of course. Obviously, you didn't take the songwriting or the recording lightly. Do you feel Swallowed... is as good as it could be?
Torsten: The songs have to satisfy me for I'm my biggest critic. I just gave the songs/album the time they needed. It may sound cliché but I can't really control writing songs. I have an idea and that's when I start a new song. I never work on two songs at the same time, so it took a while. But the songs were finished quite some time before we actually started recording them. Lyrics had to be written, we had to search for suitable sounds and mixing took quite a while. The pure recording time was the smallest part. It was our aim to make the record as good as we could but there will always be things that can be done better. Perfection is a strong word. On Swallowed... we achieved what we had in mind but we want the next record to be even better. Otherwise, there would be no sense in another one.
Luxi: In my honest opinion, and without intending to kiss your butt here, Swallowed... is one of the most impressive, epic and breath-taking Death Metal albums to have crossed my path during the past 6 months or so. It truly captures all those things that are essential to making a great Death Metal album. And hey, I am not alone, as I have seen many similar comments about Swallowed... Do you feel like you hit a vein of gold with this record?
Torsten: Thanks for all the kind words! We really appreciate all the positive feedback but it was nothing we ever had in mind. We never really expected to make such an impact. It feels great that a lot of people really seem to dig and understand our sound. I wouldn't talk of "a vein of gold." We are just happy that we can exactly do what we want and found people at Imperium and FDA who believe in our stuff.
Luxi: In a good number of reviews that I have read about the Swallowed... album it's been Sweden's Dissection that seems to pop up quite often. Do you think the comparisons are due to Sulphur Aeon's depth and atmosphere being similar to those found on Dissection's releases?
Torsten: Storm of the Light's Bane is the best album ever made, but that's just my opinion, so I have no problem being compared to them. They are one of my biggest influences, for sure, but so are many other bands. Atmosphere, for me, is the most important aspect in music and maybe people think of Dissection because we also combine darkness and brutality with melodies. But they are really only one of my influences; I never intended to copy or continue their style.
Luxi: What kinds of things did you focus on when you were collecting your creative ideas for this record? Were there specific things that demanded a lot of work to get them to fall into place?
Torsten: That's a tough one. I think it was the process as a whole. Starting with the songwriting, I didn't pursue any stuff I wasn't 100% satisfied with. We wanted the vocals, which are extremely important, to be "from the deep," not just the typical stuff, and we wanted to give them space to add a chaotic and morbid vibe. Even the search for the synth sounds was not easy. Trying to find something that feels absolutely right is a tough piece of work. I also spent of lot of time finding the right order for the songs and getting everything balanced between kicking and deep sea atmosphere.
Luxi: You wrote all the music for this record, except the last song, "Zombi," which was written by Fabio Frizzi. What made you to choose this for the last song on the album?
Torsten: M. and me are big movie fans and we love the old Italian horror stuff. Woodoo is one of my all-time favorties (right now I own 8 different versions of that film). While watching it again I just imagined how it would sound with fat guitars and thundering tom-drumming. I tried it out and gave the result to M. and it became clear that this HAD to be the closing track for the album. It's just a perfect epic ending.
Luxi: What can you tell us the cover artwork for Swallowed...? It's at least as captivating and impressive as the contents of the record itself...
Torsten: I told Philipp of Imperium that I admire the style of Ola Larsson so he contacted him. When he agreed we knew that we could let our visions flow and he would make an incredible piece of art out of our ideas. We wanted to have Great Cthulhu and parts of the ruins of R´lyeh on our cover and just fed Ola all the details we had in mind. We couldn't be happier with the result!! We are still totally blown away by his art for the album cover.
Luxi: Sulphur Aeon's two previous releases, the 2012 EP Deep Deep Down They Sleep and the 2010 demo Suplhur Psalms, are somewhat hard to come by these days. Has there been and talk of getting them both on CD for those who would like to add them to their music collections?
Torsten: Deep, Deep Down... is not that hard to find and is still available and the demo we never expected to become rare. There have been offerings for a CD release but I'm not convinced. I can't exactly explain why, it just doesn't feel right. I would prefer to re-record the songs with real drums but I'm more interested in the future stuff than investing time into that. And I put the songs on the net for free when it was sold out.
Luxi: Promotional videos are always good tools for getting your band promoted. Do you think Sulphur Aeon might consider shooting a couple in the coming months?
Torsten: There are no plans for that. For it to really look great there has at least to be some budget and that we don't have that. It also doesn't make any sense to just collect some movie stuff and cover it with one of our songs. We'll see if any of us comes up with a good idea, but it has to be more than just a pure performance video. Stuff like that demands a lot of preparation and time and money, of course.
Luxi: As a relatively young band are you surprised by all the positive and encouraging attention you've received thus far?
Torsten: The reactions so far are overwhelming and we are totally surprised. I can say that it won't influence or affect our future path. We'll stick to our vision and won't cater to anyone's expectations. It's not our aim to be everybody's darling, you know. ;) We will make another album but I can't say how long it will take; a year, maybe two, we'll see.
Luxi: What is your view of worldwide Death Metal scene in 2013? 20 years ago, the main focus was mostly Florida and Sweden although some great music came from other countries as well. Do you think Death Metal might reach similar levels again?
Torsten: Hard to say for sure but there's been a huge explosion in the Death Metal scene during the last few years. A lot of amazing bands in the different sub-genres have emerged. It's great that the scene is so vital again and there are great bands from all over the world. I'll keep on doing it like I've always done and pick my pearls out of the flood. Death Metal was never really dead but a bit out of focus with bands like Behemoth and Nile, for example, pushing the boundaries and becoming quite successful. The 90's were the days when most of the classics were written and it was something like a "golden era" but there was also a lot of great stuff after the millenium. But I can't really judge if Death Metal was "bigger" back then than it is today.
Luxi: Germany has had a pretty healthy scene for Death Metal bands and new bands seem to be popping up constantly, like mushrooms after a heavy autumnal rain. Tombthroat, Craniotomy, Purgatory, Sabiendas and Requiem are just a few of the names out there with more to come, no doubt. What are some of your favorite Death Metal bands from your home country, and do you mind if bands lack of originality and innovation as long as they love the stuff they do?
Torsten: Who's really original these days? For me, in any genre, music has to come from the heart and has to touch me in some way. Personally, there are some bands that I find completely uninteresting but I'm sure there are people who think about Sulphur Aeon in the same way ;). I sometimes miss the madness of the "old days" and don't like when it sounds calculated. Death Metal is more than just plugging in the HM2-pedal. When it comes to great bands from Germany I'm really looking forward to the new stuff from Drowned and the Slaughteday demo (just pre-ordered mine). And I also deeply recommend Fragments Of Unbecoming, Lifeless, Deathronation (amazing live act), Charon, Obscure Infinity, Hatespawn, Ascension and Venenum. All of them are simply authentic in what they do!
Luxi: Sulphur Aeon isn't the only band you're involved with these days. You also play guitar in December Flower, a whole different outfit compared to Sulphur Aeon. Do you feel comfortable being in two totally different bands? Does it allow you to improve yourself as a musician and stretch your skills?
Torsten: Sulphur Aeon is the band where I can express my own creativity without any limitations whereas December Flower is just pure 90´s melodic Swedish-style Death Metal worship. Sulphur Aeon has no real boundaries; it's just what wants to break out of me. This seems to be blackened Death Metal, haha. I don't consider us to be a 100% old-school band, it's more than that. I wouldn't say that it feels comfortable right now, just a bit more stressful to coordinate both. I never planned Sulphur Aeon to become a band that hits the stage. I'm thankful that, for both bands, there are people that are really into our stuff. And, for me, becoming a "better musician" is not to gain more instrumental skills but to grow as a songwriter. That's the real challenge for me.
Luxi: Besides December Flower, some people will also remember you from such bands as Symbiontic and Through the Ashes. How much freedom of expression did you have in those bands?
Torsten: Not enough, that's for sure... ;) Symbiontic was a really important period in my life and I learned a lot. I'm really proud of what we created, especially the Vaya album, which grew on me when I could listen to it with some distance. I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to play with these guys and never lost contact with Marcel, who is also featured on the demo and album and was the first choice when it came to finding a live guitarist for Sulphur Aeon. For Through The Ashes, it was planned as a project and it would have been better if it had stayed one. It would have saved me a lot of frustration, though I still like the energy of our demo EP.
Luxi: Back to Sulphur Aeon for the last few questions. Sulphur Aeon will be one of the bands participating in "Unholy Metal Mayhem Fest 1" at Helvete in Oberhausen on April 13th 2013. This is a festival designed to support underground Death Metal. How important do you see these types of events for new bands?
Torsten: It's just great that people like Vasili invest so much energy into events like that. You get great bands for little money and, for me, that's the underground spirit and the main reason we consented to play. We also wanted to support our brother with his event, for he's a first day supporter of Sulphur Aeon. And it is a great chance for bands to meet, exchange gigs, reach new "fans" (I'm not a fan of this word) and just celebrate the music we all love.
Luxi: What expectations do you have about your performance at this festival? Do you think you'll be well received by the crowd?
Torsten: I hope so! We don't really have any expectations, we'll just deliver the best performance we can and leave it to the audience to decide if they dig it or not. It was not our plan to play live but it seems that a lot of people want to see Sulphur Aeon on stage, so we'll be there!
Luxi: Rumors are Sulphur Aeon is aiming to play more shows in the future. Can you give us any more details?
Torsten: Nothing I can reveal officially but there'll be at least one more show on, for me, a very special festival. And we'll see what the future holds in store for us. A tour, if it is meant to happen, would be very small. We want to keep Sulphur Aeon something special and we won't be playing many shows, that's for sure. It's about the stuff we are really into and not for gaining more attention.
Luxi: What hopes do you have for 2013 regarding Sulphur Aeon? Do you see a pot of gold over the horizon?
Torsten: I can't see anything bigger for us this year. We have vinyl in our hands, showing the incredible artwork on the front. We get amazing reviews and feedback from listeners, we were voted number 3 in the soundcheck of Germany's biggest Metal mag Rock Hard; what more can you expect, really?? We'll just concentrate of preparing our live shows and I'll continue writing new stuff.
Luxi: Well, I think that's all I had in mind. Thank you very much Torsten, for your time and good luck to you and Sulphur Aeon with everything in life. The famous last words are yours...
Torsten: Well Luxi, I have to thank you! And all our supporters so far; I can't mention that often enough!
|Other information about Sulphur Aeon on this site|
|Review: Swallowed by the Ocean's Tide|
|Review: Gateway to the Antisphere|
|Review: Gateway to the Antisphere|
|Review: The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos|
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