Claim The Throne

Claim The Throne
Aug 1, 2015
Interview with Claim The Throne - Six years ago, when I was first making tentative steps into the Sydney Heavy Metal scene as a young melodic metal enthusiast, there were two bands hammering the Sydney scene who could give one a Folk Metal fix; Bane of Isildur and Claim the Throne. Where once Folk Metal in Australia filled out niches in pockets of Trad Metal shows, or hidden amongst Black Metal lineups, Australian Folk Metal is now hitting its stride, and with younger bands hitting their strides in the wake of the pathfinders, it seems appropriate to reflect on the development and growth of Folk Metal within Australia.

Claim the Throne are a Perth based Folk Metal band, incorporating a broad stretch of the influences which Folk Metal has to offer. On one side are the Korpiklaani-esque drinking songs of 'Aletales' and on the other we have the darker, more Ensiferum or Death Metal influences. Similar to their swathe of music, their live show oscillates between moments of Bacchic delight and shamanistic mystique. Recently back from a trip to Japan, Claim the Throne are celebrating ten years in the music business, and I sit down to talk with them about the nature of folk metal, culture and music.


Metal-Roos: When I was first getting into the Metal scene, it seemed that Claim the Throne and Bane of Isildur were the two heavyweights of the folk metal scene which we used to watch whenever possible. We [Fenrir] were stoked to be teaming up with you for a joint album/EP launch with Metal (feat. members of B.o.I.) and Darker Half. Now it seems that there is a whole swathe of young Australian folk metal joining the fray - being ten year veterans of the circuit, I was wondering whether you had any comments on the nature of Australian folk metal, on how it's progressed, evolved and changed.
Yeah, like you mentioned it was us and Bane of Isildur who appeared to be the only Aussie bands tampering with the genre back then... It wasn't long though until we started hearing about other bands who were doing it, so same as with all underground and local metal you have to keep an ear out and there's quality to be found. If we have provided any inspiration then we're super proud. Folk metal in general has probably kept trudging along more than people may have thought it would, which has given the younger Aussie bands time to still get involved whilst there is interest for it. I would just think that bands should be careful trying to sound too European/Scandinavian as fans over there get a bit butt-hurt about it sometimes. But I've seen a lot of great camaraderie amongst the Aussie bands lately, especially with the AusFolk Compilation CD that recently came out.


Metal-Roos: Scandinavian bands getting a bit butt-hurt? Interesting idea: in what way do you think Claim the Throne, or any other Australian Folk Metal bands have defined a sound which could be considered truly 'Australian'? Are there any specific bands or styles/themes/attitudes which for you embody the essence of Australian folk?
When we started we copped a bit of grief from fans around the world claiming Pagan Metal is a very special genre rich in history that shouldn't be stolen by those that have no relevant background. In fact I never disagreed, which is why Claim The Throne never had any references to Viking history or mythology in its lyrics. Our idea was to take a style of music we loved and incorporate our own fictional story, hence the novel that we wrote. I don't think we have an Australian sound, but we do have an Aussie party attitude that is strongly present in our live show. Really I don't think many metal bands have a unique Australian sound, but perhaps the most obvious would be the now-defunct Alchemist.


Metal-Roos: A reciprocal question - to what extent do you think Folk Metal is predicated on some sort of dialogue with Scandinavia? A lot of newer Folk Metal bands are emerging who do focus on the folk music of different countries - Tengger Cavalry come to mind - but do you thinkg that folk metal can be severed from those European roots?
Yeah, Scandinavia was just one example, but the idea of Viking Metal has probably spawned the diversity of folk metal, giving bands from certain areas or backgrounds the opportunity to celebrate their heritage within their style.


Metal-Roos: Considering the history of the interrelation between folklore/music and the rise of Nationalist sentiments in 19th century Europe, and keeping in mind the strength of Scandinavian Folk/Pagan Metal, as well as the presence within it of National Socialist Black Metal, should we only be restricted to those stories and themes in our own cultural idioms? Do you feel that the notion that one can own a culture and stories by virtue of one's birth is credible? To you, does this foster and continue racial divides within the Folk/Pagan/Black Metal style? And finally, are these cultural divides worthy of being maintained?
There are always going to be credible arguments for varying opinions, at the end of the day people can write lyrics about whatever they want, the original point was just to make sure you're passionate about what you're doing and stay true to yourself. One of my favourite albums is Suidakra's Emprise To Avalon, an album written by a German band based on British Medieval History. Or look at Sabaton who sing about all sorts of historical battles. Musicians are storytellers in a way, and if you're good at it then you're good at it, you don't need a qualification or a birth certificate for permission to proceed. Culture is important in metal, but racism definitely not.


Metal-Roos: After the initial novelty of playing in a band has worn off, being in a group for the long haul can be trying; organising shows, getting through albums and touring. What is it about Claim the Throne which keeps you inspired to keep coming back and playing?
Just sincerely loving what we do. We love the style of music, we love playing gigs, but most of all the band members love hanging out with eachother and working towards common goals.. We're all flexible with balancing the band and our personal lives, which makes touring a breeze, therefore conquering more goals every year and continuously striving to achieve more. We also run a podcast at www.claimthethrone.net where we chatted about this exact topic so tune in for more ;)


Metal-Roos: I did want to ask you about the podcast actually. Maybe you can tell us a little bit more about how it started up. What dimensions does the podcast add to the overall Claim the Throne experience for fans?
Originally it was planned to be a 'studio diary' when we recorded Forged In Flame, but we found it was too hard juggling the two at the same time. It has since developed into a DIY Musician podcast with a strong emphasis on local metal, so we discuss all sorts of current topics to allow younger musicians to gain helpful info to make smarter decisions. There are also a heap of interviews with various local musos and promoters. In terms of the overall CTT experience, it's an additional avenue for fans to gain an insight into what we are doing at the time, plus streaming of rare songs & demo tracks. People can even record questions that we will play and answer on the show. All for free.


Metal-Roos: It seems that central to Claim the Throne's attitude to metal is the community, whether that's in the camaraderie amongst Australian Folk metal bands, or in helping younger musicians in your podcast. Is community important amongst Claim the Throne's priorities? Is it an important aspect of metalheads? Where does Claim the Throne sit within this community you've helped develop?
We were lucky to grow up in Perth during a time when the local metal scene was loyal, dedicated and supportive to younger upcoming bands. If it weren't for being embraced in such a scene then we might not be where we are today. I think that most metalheads into their local scenes consider Community an integral part of why they go to shows and why they support bands. People in bands should still go to shows when they're not playing, they should still promote other gigs when they're not playing, and they should be willing to lend a bit of advice when it's appropriate. The stronger the Community the better chance a few bands will break through.


Metal-Roos: How did those ten years shaped Claim the Throne's music and style? You've mentioned in previous interviews that you started with a jumble of different styles and influences; Black-, Folk- and Death Metal as well as bands such as Opeth - how have these simmered into the Claim the Throne that we see today?
The main aim was always to combine folk metal with melodic death, in the vein of bands like Suidakra, Kalmah, Bal-Sagoth, Moonsorrow etc... With the first album though, we did try to incorporate too many influences into one, rather than really focussing on one main idea.. After that, we wanted to work on our songwriting more, hence the Aletales EP.. That was based on the pure folk-metal sound and gave us more experience writing and recording. Since then we've solidified the lineup and stoked that we're now really hitting the sound we've been aiming for all along.


Metal-Roos: From what you've said about the change in stylistic track, would it be fair to say that Aletales embraced a 'Keep it Simple' kind of attitude? It seems to me that Folk Metal itself is a stylistic synthesis to begin with, do you think there is much more room in Folk Metal for further cross-genre escapades?
Aletales definitely embraced a 'simple yet effective' attitude. It helped us with songwriting & recording experience, plus gave us a few short/catchy songs to implement into the live show, and a short fun song to use as our first music video. Yes it's a blend of folk music and heavy metal, but it's almost become a metal style of it's own which can then be blended with a different style of metal for further unique-ness. I think the beauty of Metal in general is that there are no rules, you can blend a thousand genres together if you want to, but it isn't always going to work effectively, so experimentation is healthy but it needs to be refined to whatever works for the band.


Metal-Roos: So at this point, is Claim the Throne looking at further blending, or a refinement of style?
At this point, refinement.


Metal-Roos: If you had any advice for younger musicians, how does one go about blending different styles of music? Are there some musics which just won't blend?
I don't think there are any rules, if you get a crazy idea then try it. If you love death metal but you're a good clean singer, then combine your strengths and do both. If you love power metal but can't sing, then how about try fast riffs with growls instead? Most importantly just be willing to listen to feedback about your music, whether that be from your friends or professionals or people at shows. You'll eventually know when to have an open mind and when to stick to your guns.


Metal-Roos: You've hinted that "Only the Brave Return" may have flirted with a conceptual side, would you say that Claim the Throne is a band which does engage in the storytelling side of metal which has drawn in so many groups as diverse as Blind Guardian or Queensryche? The first local act which comes to mind beyond Claim the Throne is Claret Ash's Ground Dweller. Why do you think that stories are so central to the way in which a lot of metalheads seem to engage with music?
It was important to us initially when we wrote a book to match the album, but not too interested in the story telling these days. It's good to have a concept or idea to base an album on, metal is extremely creative and metalheads like albums as a whole rather than individual songs.


Metal-Roos: If storytelling isn't the first point of call, where to Claim the Throne's lyrics and ideas come from? What gets you wanting to put pen to paper? What do you want to express with your music?
Each album has it's own ideas/vibe/emotions etc.. Only The Brave Return followed a fictional story, Aletales was all drinking & partying, Triumph & Beyond was about achieving your goals then getting drunk, Forged In Flame was essentially that every good is born from evil.... So all kinda broad topics that are expanded on within the songs.. Concepts, even if very simple, are helpful for consistency of an album as a whole.


Metal-Roos: Perhaps a bit more of a flippant question - do you write the lyrics or the music first? Or both at the same time? In your mind, do the lyrics reflect the music, or does the music reflect the lyrics?
Can be both, but at the moment our songwriting is more based on music first. As the album writing goes on we start getting a feel for the overall vibe, then the lyrics kinda just flow naturally when the time is right.


Metal-Roos: Best/worst moments over these years?
Best moments - Touring & travelling to awesome places, meeting hilarious metal freaks, patting horses in Asia, busting nuts on hotties. Worst moments - Hangovers. But these are cured easily by listening to Anal Whore. - Interested in more Folk Metal? Check out: Tales from the Southern Realm Compilation downloadable here



Interviewed by Duncan Therkildsen Jones
Ever since Duncan Therkildsen Jones discovered metal at the age of 14 he's been obsessed with putting it under the scalpel. His twin passions of Heavy Metal and classical music saw him found a Sydney Speed metal band, and complete an honours degree in music studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of music. He is currently studying a Masters degree in Musicology at the Con, specialising in ethnomusicology/ethnography of Heavy Metal.