EMQ’s With Sanity
Hi everyone! Welcome to another EMQs interview, this time with German Symphonic Metal band, Sanity. Huge thanks to them for taking part.
What is your name, what do you play and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
Sanity is a Symphonic Metal band from Germany. The compositions have their roots in Black and Death Metal but are enriched with massive arrangements of choirs and symphonic instruments. There is an abundance of lead guitars and melodic riffing, the songs feature low growling vocals, intense shouting and screaming but also beautiful clean vocals, from heroic Viking chants to high-pitched Power Metal voices. The drumming ranges from fast-paced blasts with double bass drumming to intense Progressive Metal rhythms.
My brother and me are old hands in the Heavy Metal business and have been living it actively with Sanity for almost 30 years now. Sanity was founded 1994, initially as a Grunge Rock band with only one guitar, a bass and drums. Over the first year the band’s musical focus shifted to Death and then to Black Metal.
By 1996 we had released our first three track demo and by 1998 our first full length album “Sinister Reflections”. 1999 came “Nocturnal Poems” our second album, where we journeyed into the realm of symphonic black metal. With faster paced drums, intricate guitar riffing, and much more advanced orchestra arrangements we released “Schattensymphonie” in 2001. What a great album, the sound still holds up today and the songs speak of an almost forgotten rawness and hardness that we had back in the days. The band went on hiatus in 2002, all the while we continued to compose songs for the next album. Around 2014 we called the band back together to start practicing the new songs. And this time I aimed at creating a masterpiece. I wanted it all, clean vocals, shouting, well arranged rhythm guitar riffing, lead guitars, fast drums, realistically sounding orchestra and choir. And we took our time. The EP “Revelation was released” on 11 March 2023.
How did you come up with your band name?
Look, we founded the band in the early nineties when we listened to bands such as Death, Megadeth and Metallica, schoolmates wore band shirts from Fear Factory, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Paradise Lost, … you name it. Metal band names had to have some meaning, most of them invoking some dreadful message that went along with their kick-ass music. I won’t tell you all of the names we came up with, I mean, we were teenagers after all, so, yes, we had some cheesy ideas like “Brothers of Destruction” and so on, but luckily, we did not go for that (ha ha ha).
After the initial hype of finding a suitable name we became reasonable and figured that we needed a name that went along with the music we intended to write and that expressed how we felt about us and saw ourselves in the world. With all the insanity that we witnessed around us in a world that was turned upside down after the cold war had ended and Berlin was a free town again, we needed to set an example and call us sane, being of healthy mind, reasonable and balanced. Our initial music experience (especially on the first album) was not about mosh pit, pogo dance and riot, it was actually pretty avant-garde and surely not easy to digest. And that’s where the name “Sanity” originates from.
What Country / Region are you from and what is the Metal / Rock scene like there?
We are all based around Berlin, Germany, most of us living in the small towns in the surrounding region. Berlin is very rich in music culture and features hundreds of artists every week on the stages of the clubs. We have been part of the Heavy Metal culture in Berlin since the early nineties and have played with a lot of local bands. The Metal scene is not limited to Berlin but is also very much alive in smaller clubs and bars around Berlin. Many of the famous Metal bands play shows in Berlin, but I personally prefer to attend shows in the smaller clubs, where underground bands play their concerts. You always know someone in the crowd and see familiar faces, that’s what I like about it.
What is your latest release?
The new EP “Revelation” is our fourth release and is created as a concept album. The central narrative is what is commonly known as “apocalypse” or “Armageddon”, originating from the last book in the bible, the book of “Revelation”. The EP features five majestic songs that take you through the terrible events depicted in that book. This is a metal album. You will find influences from Black and Death Metal, intense shouting, growling and screaming but also Power Metal-esque clean vocals and a plethora of melodies, played by guitar, choir or classical instruments. The heavy guitar riffing is embedded in elaborate orchestra arrangements and sophisticated black / death metal drumming. Expect a journey through extravagant harmonic textures, melodic riffs and fast-paced drumming with a solid punch of black metal.
The official music videos for “Seals” and “Throne” were just released. Check them out on YouTube.
Who have been your greatest influences?
Listening to the five tracks on our EP you will find influences from 90’s Black Metal bands like Emperor, Ancient and Bloodthorn, but also Death Metal bands like Orphanage, Gorefest, and Death. Even Metallica plays a role. Gothic Metal bands like Cemetary or Dark Wave artists like Eros Necropsique and Elend were also a resource of inspiration. The way we composed the orchestra parts was definitely formed by us listening to music from Ludwig van Beethoven, Arcangelo Corelli, Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Friedrich Händel. I’d say, if you’re into bands like Arcturus, Obtained Enslavement, Throes Of Dawn or Rhapsody, you know what to appreciate when combining Orchestral and Metal arrangements.
What first got you into music?
I was growing up in a strange type of musical home. My parents being born during World War II and having suffered bomb raids, displacement and separation from their families longed for a peaceful and silent haven to build a family. Imagine an austere Bauhaus-type house, filled with collector’s pieces and antiques, silent in its core, with classical music the only kind to fill the white painted halls every other fortnight or so. We did not have any TV, nor was there any radio culture. I was a clean slate when it came to popular music. First mixtapes from classmates featuring the classic eighties quickly lead to discovering Rock music and I was already playing in a cover band at the age of thirteen.
After having seen The Offspring’s “Come Out and Play” on MTV during a family vacation in the United States I was hooked. The song was not yet known in Germany and so my twin brother and I decided to cover it. That was the beginning of “Sanity” and it was 1994. And it was not enough. Not nearly enough.
We were eager to experiment with creating songs ourselves. I wanted to find out how song writing actually works. Can I do it? How do I express what I musically enjoy? How does it sound if I compose these chords for guitar, the harmonic 3rd in bass and a Progressive drumming underneath it? I was overflowing with creativity.
I got pretty quickly into Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, starting with AC/DC and G’n’R. But then somebody had me listen to Metallica, my first real Heavy Metal experience. There was a music show on the public broadcast channel “FAB – Fernsehen aus Berlin” which featured a documentary about “Death Metal”. Imagine, a teenager in a classical music-home (we had bought a (small) TV in the meantime) watching in all earnestness an educational television program about Death Metal – and the next thing I know, I went to a music store to buy my first Death Metal CD. Funny but true, the shop clerk was totally lost when I asked him about Death Metal, so we both went to the “D” section and found a CD from a band called Death and he sold it to me. Luckily, it was Death Metal and that sealed my fate and the direction our band would be taking from now on.
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
When Rage released their “Lingua Mortis” album, I was blown away by the fusion of Metal and Classical music. Remember, Classical music was a big influence in my childhood. To combine this with my passion for Heavy Metal had always been my dream. Already on our first album we composed quite intricate synthesizer arrangements, these played a vital role in creating the somber atmosphere of “Sinister Reflections”.
On “Nocturnal Poems” we took it a step further, you clearly hear the Classical influences in many songs, but it was still a synthesizer that provided the sounds. We briefly toyed with the idea to ask the school orchestra from a school in our neighborhood to partner with us, but it never came to being. I believe also because we still had so much creativity that needed to be put into new songs. So, we went forward with the next album. In 2001 Dimmu Borgir released “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” and I was blown away. This was obviously an outstanding production with real orchestra, something we could only dream of.
Fast forward to 2018 and suddenly I had a powerful new studio software in my hands with real orchestra samples. We finally could forge an album that combined Metal and Classical music! And that’s what we did. I reworked the synthesizer arrangements into sophisticated orchestra arrangements just like I had dreamed of for twenty plus years and now I hold it in my hands, a beautiful symbiosis between the two musical genres I love the most. Imagine now, if we would be offered to perform a live show or even a short tour together with a live orchestra and choir, this would be the dream of my dreams. There you have it.
If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
Wacken Open Air in Germany 🙂 it’s just legendary.
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
Ha ha ha, you’re out for some juicy stories, are you? We all had our share of rock and roll life and some of the concerts and after-show parties were crazy wild. Funnily enough, our fans have always been pretty decent folks, so I might have to take a rain check on that.
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
Take our message seriously. In the end, when the last days truly begin our music may help people to understand the events that are happening around them. It may allow people to hear about what God’s word reveals about the future and how this God provides a way out. Make peace with God.
If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
Time in the studio is just plain awesome. We kicked of the recordings for the Revelation trilogy in 2016 with a week in the studio to lay the groundwork and then decided to have a studio day once per month, since we were all full-time working and had families. We ended up with over a hundred audio tracks total, quadruple tracked rhythm guitars for maximum heaviness, countless lead guitars, up to twenty vocal tracks, thirty or more orchestra tracks per song. It’s massive. And we took our time, 7 years to be exact, that includes songs for the upcoming EPs of the “Revelation” project as well. But no regrets, frankly speaking, I am already missing the Saturdays in the studio, man did we have a good time. It was once a month a vacation from the life I am living now, like being back in university, no obligations, single-minded and focused on music, hanging out with my band as if there was no tomorrow.
I hate listening to “final mixes” of our songs before they go into production. The concentration needed to meticulously listen again and again to the same song, to focus your attention to all the different aspects of the compositions is excruciating. I am able to do these things by sheer force of will, but it does not come without cost. Usually after that I am so run-down, and I need to recharge in my arcade. If you think about it, it’s actually not to bad, oscillating from my primary vocation – being a musician – to my primary passion – arcade games and pinball machines.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
I really miss the good old vinyl and compact disk days when not everything was instantly available on YouTube or Spotify. I remember dearly flipping through underground mail order catalogs like Last Episode and Nuclear Blast (when they were still black & white prints), reading about the new releases and making a conscious choice which CD’s to order from my scarce budget. When the package arrived days later, you were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of creativity creeping out of the speakers of your stereo. Waiting and anticipation was a wholesome part of the experience. Also, back then we always listened to complete albums, a trait I preserved myself until today. It’s a totally different approach to music nowadays with the advent of the Instant Society. In my personal life I try to set an example, not losing sight of my values in spite of the world turning ever faster around us.
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
Arcturus – “Aspera Hiems Symfonia”.
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
I love the vintage aspect about vinyl, I own hundreds of CD’s, so my biggest collection is in CD’s. I love listing to music on YouTube, because there are some many great bands and musicians out there that I would never have found otherwise.
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
In February we played our record release concert in a small club where we invited friends and fans from the past 30 years. We had a blast doing so, it was such wonderful atmosphere, connecting with our fans, some of them with us from the beginning. You really should have been there; you would have seriously enjoyed it. In June we were booked for the German Church Day in Nuremberg. It’s basically a huge, five-day festival organized biennially by the German Protestant Church with over one hundred thousand people attending, hundreds of acts, shows, workshops, and discussions. This was a great event as we are able to present our music to a much wider audience than usual. The feedback was very positive and encouraging.
If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?
I don’t think there was ever a chance for us not getting into music, this is how we expressed our inner self, the emotional turmoil were we going through back in the 90’s (and maybe still today?). Some of my friends used sports to blow off steam, others created drawings and paintings to cope with their situations. Any yes, some succumbed to drugs and lost all their drive. But not us. Composing music is a cathartic experience for me, I wouldn’t have made it without music.
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?
Oh, nice question. How about this: My wife, my brother, Jesus, Dave Mustaine, and my friend Lonnie from Tracing Days band?
What’s next for the band?
We have already worked on songs for the second and third EP to complete the “Revelation” project and plan to release those in 2024 and 2025, respectively. This trilogy will then have a total of 14 songs. The record release concert for the second EP “The Beast” is planned for March 2nd, 2024 . There will be concerts in summer and autumn for sure, but we are still in the planning phase, nothing concrete, yet.
At the same time my brother and I are working on a rerelease of our second album “Nocturnal Poems” from 1999. Florian is actually composing completely new rhythm and lead guitars and I will be recording new drums for it.
From the very beginning I had envisioned Sanity to reach the English speaking audience and thus used English lyrics. It would be pretty awesome to get in contact with metal bands from the UK or US and become their support on one of their tours. Let’s see what the future holds in store for us.
Our YouTube channel already has a good amount of content and I would like to add more. Official videos for the songs, more vlogs on the scary exciting subject of the apocalypse that our lyrics talk about. A couple of years ago I had already started a vlog series explaining our lyrics that I would also love to continue. You see, we got our hands full with exciting subjects for many years to come.
What Social Media / Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/sanity/1546091708
Time for a very British question now. As an alternative to the humble sandwich, is the correct name for a round piece of bread common in the UK either a Bap, a Barm (or Barm Cake), a Batch, a Bun a Cob, a Muffin, a Roll or a Tea Cake?
Time for a German Answer: We call it a Toastbrötchen (now print that ha ha ha!).
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I had a lot of fun answering your questions, thank you very much, it was surely not the usual stuff, so thumbs up for the interesting and insightful questions. Cheers!
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.