I stumbled upon Crimson Shadows for the first time, seemingly by total case of nonchalant accident, in the hallowed grounds as to where metal, ale and chants are considered the norms. Of course I am talking about Wacken Open Air’s 2012 festival. Although festivals are a long way from us yet again, it holds a special place for many folk, essentially because the Canadian quintet bossed the Metal Battle competition that year. And I love Wacken, but I highly doubt you knew that already.
However, on the basis that I am frequently immersed in anything from death metal to fusion jazz, one of my less-explored realms of music tends to fall under the categories of “pirate metal” or “folk metal”. Think Alestorm but done to excess in terms of riffwork and singalongs. That’s what some may pinpoint Crimson Shadows in, however, there are a lot more to them than meets the eye. So, despite our mutual friends across the pond, I decided to formally chat to the band’s drummer Cory Hofing and try, this time, not to make a tit of myself with a bottle of cherry mead in my hand.
Read my review of Crimson Shadows’ latest album Kings Among Men here.
Cory: We are Power/Death metal from Canada. We are influenced by European Power Metal and Melodic Death as well as American Thrash and Death Metal. Honestly, we are just five guys who love playing music together and we have a great time doing it!
Danuel: You describe yourselves as “EPIC POWER METAL/MELODIC DEATH” and to be honest the capitalisation is needed! But with regards to that, what epic power metal and/or melodic death bands are you influenced by?
Cory: For the most part German Power Metal like Helloween, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian and Brainstorm as well as some Scandinavian bands like Stratovarius, HammerFall and Arch Enemy. A big influence from the beginning has been DragonForce as well as Amon Amarth and Children Of Bodom. We all grew up listening to Megadeth and Iron Maiden, so we have some of that old- school influence as well.
Danuel: You may have seen the review that MetalRecusants did for Kings Among Men recently. Having had some time to reflect on the album, what are your thoughts on it compared to your previous releases?
Cory: We all feel that this is our strongest release so far and overall we are very happy with how our sound has evolved over the past eight years of being a band. It has taken a while to figure out exactly what we wanted to do and how our music makes the listener feel. Having the addition of bassist Morgan Rider on this record was a huge step up for us seeing as not only his bass skills stand out but his vocal abilities have really made our live performance truly bring the songs from the album to life. The biggest difference on Kings Among Men is that all these songs were written within one year compared to our first album Glory On The Battlefield, which consisted of songs over a four-year period.
Danuel: What are the current touring plans for the band?
Cory: Well, we recently just finished a month long European tour in support of the new album and now we are working on pushing Kings Among Men sales in North America so we can get on a tour early 2015. The winter is a hard time to tour in North America but any chance we get to hit the road we take. We really hope to make it back to Europe and more specifically the UK!
Danuel: Following on from that, there is a significant lack of UK dates! This makes me sad!
Cory: We know and we wish we could have been a part of Alestorm’s UK tour but it was a PirateFest tour and we just didn’t fit the bill. We have many fans in the UK that have been bugging us for years to come over and we really hope the next time we cross the ocean we will have many gigs lined up in the UK.
Danuel: What were your main influences, both musical and non-musical, in creating Kings Among Men?
Cory: Musically it’s hard to say but we listen to a lot of Blind Guardian and Gamma Ray so those are two big influences when it comes to the feel of our music. Non-musically we have been through a lot over the eight-plus years we have been a band and with us getting to the next stage of our careers and getting the amount of success as an independent band like winning the Wacken Metal Battle and doing several Canadian tours we had a lot to write about. As an example, the song “Braving The Storm” is based around when we were on our way to record our EP Sails Of Destiny and we got caught in a massive snow storm, but that didn’t stop us from getting to the studio. Mainly bands that tour Canada in the winter can attest to the same thing and we have come across it several times. The song also involves a life lesson element that ties in with the whole theme of the album which is to never give up and always go above and beyond what anybody expects. You can’t give up on your dreams and goals and those who succeed are the true kings!
Danuel: Do you find the move to Napalm Records has facilitated your writing and recording?
Cory: We are very happy being on Napalm Records. They have never held us back creatively and only supported what we want to do. Sebastian and everybody at Napalm have been awesome to work with and we hope our relationship only grows in the future.
Danuel: Going back to Kings Among Men, was there a particular meaning behind the title?
Cory: Absolutely. Sometimes it’s hard to pick an album title without having a title track and some people thought it was pretty ballsy to make it Kings Among Men (thinking we are talking about ourselves) but the whole theme behind it is that the only thing that separates a king from a normal man is that he is willing to fight for what he believes in, what he wants and what he thinks he deserves. We are all just humans but it’s what we make of this life and it’s who we become that makes us who we are. Everybody has a chance if they just work hard enough and never let obstacles get them down.
Danuel: Did you find yourselves immersed in the narrative of the album?
Cory: For the most part yes, but each song has a different story and tells a separate tale so some songs grab me a little more than others. Overall during the writing process I think we all got very deeply involved in the tales that the album tells.
Danuel: Tell us something about the creation of the album artwork. It almost seems an absolutely perfect counterpart to go along with Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor.
Cory: I personally don’t know what that is but our artist Peter may have had some inspiration haha! We worked with an amazing artist on this album named Peter Sallai and with only giving him a theme and brief idea he came up with the perfect album cover for us.
Danuel: What do you find is the most enjoyable part of the writing process?
Cory: When a song is finished, haha. Sometimes songs can take a while as we piece them together riff by riff and change things as we go, but the first time we play through a song together and everything fits perfectly, it’s one of the greatest feelings knowing that it’s done. I do enjoy the writing process and seeing what Ryan and Greg come up with. Sometimes the first time I hear melodies that they write gives me goosebumps and I can’t help but smile because I know I will have so much fun playing along to the riff.
Danuel: We have interviewed bands in the past who say very different things regarding this matter. Objectively speaking, how do you find yourselves writing music? Do you find it easier to write your songs one step at a time, or do you find it easier to craft various pieces of music and build upon that?
Cory: For us each song seems to be different but our writing process starts with Ryan and Greg getting the guitars down in a home studio and we work out where the vocals will be and what drum beats will be over each riff. After that we lay down rough vocal tracks and write lyrics as we go so we can hear exactly what it’s going to sound like and how it will be in the end. Sometimes songs just write themselves in one sitting but other times it can take weeks and weeks of changes and re-writing to get it just right.
Danuel: Thanks for the interview!
Jimi Maltais – Vocals
Ryan Hofing – Guitar
Greg Rounding – Guitar/ Vocals
Morgan Rider – Bass/ Backing Vocals
Cory Hofing – Drums