I am very happy we managed to get the German WITCHING HOUR band into Necrosphere zine. They were formed in 2006 and till now they have three full-length albums, let's remember them. "Rise of The Desecrates" 2009 debut under Evil Spell Records, the second "Past Midnight ..." released in 2011, also under Evil Spell Records, and the latest album is "... and Silent Grief Shadows The Passing Moon" from 2018 under Hells Headbangers Records. The band made it at the end of the year, December 21. They present their style as Ancient Black Metal, but the truth is that besides the first wave of Black Metal their music can also feature elements of Heavy or Thrash Metal. Definitely an interesting mix of extreme Metal, they sound pretty old and they belong into the early 80s. You can literally blow up dust deposits and sweep webs from their music. I think we have already introduced the band enough, Marco Justinger has the words (bass, back vox).
First you could write why you were named just Witching Hour. Were you inspired by British Venom from their debut? What does this name mean to you and how it reflects the spirit or philosophy of the band? Who is the author of logo?
Coming up with the name WITCHING HOUR wasn't a big deal. It sounds good and evokes the right pictures in your mind. It represents the darkness and somber tone that is present in our music at any given moment. The Venom song of said name wasn't the reason for our choice but definitely an inspiration. Logo is done by Pino Hecker vocalist of Nocturnal and Witchburner.
Let's go a little back to 2006. Do you remember why and under what circumstances did you form Witching Hour? What was your main idea to play your Ancient Black Metal? Could it be a certain opposition to commercial Metal?
When we got together in 2006 we were between 14 and 16 years old. The idea was to play Thrash Metal but there were other influences coming in as well from early Black Metal to traditional Heavy Metal and NWOBHM so when we started writing songs together they just turned out the way they did.
The term "Ancient Black Metal" describes our fundamental connection to the earliest forms of dark and sinister heavy music.
Where to find inspiration for your music? Could you indicate which bands were most interesting for you at the time of your formation? Which albums do you really worship and which ones you could swear? How did you actually get to listen to Metal music?
I think what inspired us the most in the early days but today as well as it will tomorrow is what I just said. The earliest forms of dark and sinister heavy music. Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Venom, Mercyful Fate, Metallica, Exodus, Slayer, Voivod, Sodom, Bathory, Sarcofago, Master's Hammer... the list is endless but your readers will know.
I guess for the main part Punk Rock was our introduction to heavy music but when we first listened to the afforementioned pioneers of Heavy Metal there was no turning back. Nonetheless we still love a lot of the classic's like Misfits, GBH, Ramones, Anti-Nowhere League etc.
What is your personal relationship to Mercyful Fate? Personally I hear their early days in your music, but not in terms of copying or imitation, rather a healthy inspiration. Did the "Melissa" and "Don't Break The Oath" albums have a special impact on you? Do you believe Mercyful Fate will return as the King says in the latest interviews?
Mercyful Fate have a special place in the history of Heavy Metal so sure we are influenced by them in one way or another. They didn't sound like any other band before them or after and created an aura in their songs and albums that stays unmatched.
I'd say their individuality and capability of creating a certain kind of atmosphere is something we and any other band can learn a lot from.
On the one hand you are using a totally catchy harmonic melody, but on the other hand it is not such a sticky melody, which immediately burrow to the listener and is hard to get out of head. Your melody has some old-to-archaic aura, like in the eighties. I feel you care for aesthetics of harmony and strictly choosing what you will release...
The guitar harmonies obviously come from Thin Lizzy, Wishbone Ash and what they passed over to tons of Bands in the NWOBHM.
We love to interweave melodies and harmonies into our songs be it within the riffs, leads, bass lines or vocal lines. That's an important part of our sound I think. A tasteful melody at the right place can say more than 1000 words.
Do you think Metal of 80s had something magical and unique in itself what is missing today? Would you specifically name which essentials are missing in the current bands? Do you think it can often be due to too clean and artificial production and the like?
I could philosophy until next year about what made 80s Metal so special and different to today's Bands but I try to keep it short.
I think there are worlds between 80s metal and today's bands that try to sound like 80s. Sure there are a lot of good bands but they will never have the meaning of the masterpieces from the golden age.
I don't feel like I'm in the position to judge about what a lot of bands are doing wrong today so I won't.
I just have the feeling that a lot of bands are trying too hard to sound like this band or that band that they miss the chance of developing their own identity.
You have three full-lengths. Which one do you think is the best and why? Do you have a special relationship to each of the albums and how much they reflects the time and atmosphere of those times and band? Are you proud of all your recordings?
Obviously I think " ...And Silent Grief Shadows The Passing Moon" is our best work. We wouldn't put out an album if we thought "the last one was better". We grew as players, as songwriters and the sense of our own identity as a band and our qualities increased as well.
Still we are proud of every release we did. It's just like you said. Every album reflects a certain period of the Band and our lives and they are exactly the way they should be.
Do you think playing such an old kind of Black Metal is something like being out? What does fame and be recognized by metal fans mean to you? Did anyone tell you that you play retro Metal or something similar? Is it insulting if someone called your band with such a term? Where do you have the biggest fan base and which comments and critics from fans always you enjoy?
We couldn't care less about being considered out, retro or whatever terms people come up with. In the first place we are creating music and play to satisfy ourselfes. Whether people like it or not is irrelevant in the creative process.
Of course it always feels good to be recognized and apreciated for what you do but it shouldn't dictate your creative decisions as a band.
It's like in everyday live. You have your personality and mentality and stay true to it whether people like you or not and that's what earns you respect.
I guess our biggest fanbase is in Germany as we played the most shows here and were on a german label for a long time.
Comments on our music that really encourage us are when people appreciate the unique character of our music and the ability to create a certain atmosphere. It is really important for us to have our own personality as a band.
Your lyrics generally deal with occultism and left hand path. Who is the author and where do you draw inspiration? Is there also inspiration from old occult films, books, works of art? Can the visit of unusual places, old crypt, cemeteries, monastery ruins, dense forests and the like inspire you to creation?
Our lyrics deal with different dark and morbid topics. The first trigger for creating a text can be a lot; a certain melody that you hear, a line from a book or a movie that you keep spinning, a song that you are listening to, or a certain mood you are in right now. Sometimes you write a songtext in 15 minutes and another time you work it out for weeks. That is very different.
Every bandmember writes lyrics.
Absolutely I feel the most important element for your work is atmosphere, it is hiding in strange melodies, sound, vocals, bass lines, or drums strokes, it is coming out of everything. Do you perceive the atmosphere of your music similarly?
Creating a certain atmosphere is the top priority when it comes to songwriting. As soon as you got some riffs and vocal lines together and the arrangement starts to show it's own character we try to add little things that enhance this and build up a dense atmosphere.
I have to give thanks to your vocalist, color of his voice, the technique of singing, his voice infinitely fit to your music, it is as charismatic as the music. Did you care to make the vocals so conceived and to sound as it sounds at the band's formation? You will surely agree that nowadays there are not so many interesting and special vocalists...
Great compliment! The vocals definitely changed over the years. In the beginning they were really aggressive. They became more colorful over the years by adding different kinds of emotion to it. They still possess an underlying aggression but are also filled with despair, grief, fear and everything needed to bring the lyrics to life.
I think the emotional aspect is missing with a lot of vocalists today. Especially in extreme metal. Often singers have a certain timbre which works for them and they stick to it regardless of what they are singing about. But to capture the listener you have to transport the emotional content of the lyrics and not just the words.
It's the eyewitness report that moves us not the news reporter in the studio reading from a sheet.
Are you supporters of analog sound? Can you tell where you recorded "... and Silent Grief Shadows the Passing Moon" and what techniques did you use at recording process? What words would you use to express your sound? Is the character of sound as important to you as music, atmosphere, lyrics?
We recorded at Sculpt Sound Studios in Cologne. It is the studio of Laurent from Chapel of Disease. He was the perfect producer for us as he understands our vision very well and has the skills to realize it in the studio.
Of course the sound is an essential part of the music and it is as important as anything in the process of making an album.
The album was digitally recorded, mixed and mastered. The question of analog vs. digital wasn't really important for us in the recording process as it doesn't contribute to the sound as much as people like to think.
We put a lot of effort in finding the right sound for each instrument by trying different pedal/amp/cabinet combinations, microphone positions etc.
Making the right choices before you start recording prevents you from trying to fix things in the mix which ruins the raw and natural character we aimed for.
If theres a problem with digital recordings it is that you can do all kinds of shit to the tracks with two clicks which is tempting and people tend to overdo it.
A lot of classic albums that we love today were recorded in very basic studios but they perfectly capture the energy of the bands because they sound authentic and don't rely on effects and processing.
Do you know Ingmar Bergman's movie Hour of the Wolf 1968? If so, how do you like it? Do you like artistic psychological old movies?
Never heard of it but thanks for the advise!
We love old movies. Especially Horror from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Live we use the Intro song from "The Devil's Bride" with a little quote from Christopher Lee at the end.
With those old movies it's a lot like the music of those times. They carry a very special atmosphere which can't be reproduced today.
Marco Justinger 30.3.2019 Mortuary
From Beyond They Came