20. Dezember 2023 Brent Faulkner
In the 395th Q&A in our Getting to Know… series, we get the inside scoop from Brandenburg symphonic metal band, Sanity.
The EP [Revelation] features five majestic songs that take you through the terrible events depicted in that book.” Sanity, of course, is referencing the last book of The Bible, Revelation, which their EP is based upon. The band uses this as a springboard to describe what makes them distinct, asserting, “[influentially] I had a hard time thinking about a band that incorporates so many elements from black and death metal, from progressive rock and Viking metal, from dark wave and plain simple eighties/nineties melancholy to form such a tight and aggressive, yet wistful and somber album as Revelation.” Woo! Folks, that’s only a portion of the first question from one of the most detailed band Q&As to date! We get the inside scoop on the Brandenburg symphonic metal band’s genesis, goals, musical influences, and current and future musical endeavors. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into 🎤 Getting to Know… Sanity: Interview No. 395!
For those who may not be familiar with you, what would you say makes Sanity distinct or unique? How do you rock the audience’s socks off?
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.
In preparation for the interview, I listened once again to the songs on the EP, especially with regard to the question what makes our band distinct. Yes indeed, I could name a few bands that shaped my musical taste, and we have definitely parts in our songs that will remind you of metal and hard rock bands of the late nineties. But I had a hard time thinking about a band that incorporates so many elements from black and death metal, from progressive rock and Viking metal, from dark wave and plain simple eighties/nineties melancholy to form such a tight and aggressive, yet wistful and somber album as Revelation.
The shouting and the clean vocals are incredibly diverse and powerful with 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. The orchestral arrangements are intricate and majestic without stealing any power from the guitars.
Expect a journey through extravagant harmonic textures, melodic riffs and fast-paced drumming with a solid punch of black metal. With Bernd Schweda and Rüdiger Lauktien, we had two top musicians that considerably shaped the interpretation and composing of the songs on Revelation. Bernd has immeasurable experience and creativity in death metal riffing and fast-paced solo guitar play. Rüdiger is a top-notch progressive metal drummer with phenomenal energy and curiosity to learn black and death metal drumming and to combine it with his skills for sophisticated progressive metal rhythms.
Okay, let’s explore some juicy backstories. How did Sanity form and what were some of the goals or visions you had early on?
My brother and I are old hands in the heavy metal business and have been living it actively with Sanity for almost 30 years now. Sanity was founded initially as a grunge rock band with only one guitar, a bass and drums after having seen The Offspring’s “Come Out and Play” on MTV during a family vacation in the United States. 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. We wanted to find out how songwriting actually works. Can we do it? How do we express what we musically enjoy? How does it sound if we compose these chords for guitar, the harmonic 3rd in bass, and a progressive drumming underneath it? We were overflowing with creativity.
Over the first years, 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. Atmospheric avant-garde death / black metal is what I had called our music at the time, heavily influenced by bands like Orphanage, Death, Paradigma, and Septic Flesh. It was all about expressing ourselves. I mean, read the lyrics, there was definitely a certain cathartic element to it. We were young adults in a world turned upside down after the Cold War ended and Berlin was a free town again.
You need to understand that until 1989, West-Berlin was completely surrounded by The Wall, part of it adjacent to East-Berlin, part of it bordering East-Germany. West-Berlin was a small, isolated island in East-Germany, an island one third the size of London! And there was no way out without proper visa application weeks upfront. I lived a stone’s throw away from the wall, we could hear the vicious border dogs barking every day, we saw the heavily armed border patrols on their guard towers looking straight over the wall at us playing. Sometimes menacing, sometimes cheerful. Combine that with the fact that we were an occupied city. I lived in the British sector, the barracks of the soldiers near to a playground I used to frequent. Man, did we have fights with the children of the British soldiers who took us for fair game.
So, when the wall came down it was overwhelming, literally. The wall was gone but the people that were now “neighbors” were so different from us. The villages and small towns just outside of where I grew up and which I was seeing for the first time in my life (!) were so bleak, gray, run down and depressing.
In 1999 came Nocturnal Poems, our second album where we journeyed into the realm of symphonic black metal. We had learned a lot about composing, arranging, and were eager to add orchestra to our tracks (from a synthesizer, that is – this was how you did it back in the days). In the following years, we not only honed our composing skills but had come up with a new kind of song quality altogether. Faster paced drums, intricate guitar riffings, much more advanced orchestra arrangements and 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.
Following the release of Schattensymphonie, a lot of things were happening in my private life, first employment, move to another city, marriage, kids. All this slowed down my creative process and put a halt to regular band rehearsals. Still, already in 2001, the idea was born to create a concept album about the biblical book of Revelation, a prophetic, dystopian book that vividly and explicitly describes the apocalypse. And that is what my brother and I did over the next 13 years until 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 riffings, lead guitars, fast drums, and realistically sounding orchestra and choir. And we took our time. The EP Revelation was released on 11 March 2023.
Let’s talk more about goals. Have your goals or your perspectives changed since first starting out? What do your aspirations or goals look like now?
Some songs on Revelation originated in 2001 already, we were massively creative back then, but needed to take a break from the band because my brother and I both got scholarships to study abroad. Then, things happened which nobody could have foreseen, each of us came in contact with evangelical Christians, independent from each other, even in different countries! Their bible-based message about a living God that offers forgiveness and a place in heaven for free was so radically different from what religion all over the place teaches you. I was hooked and a couple of months later, started living with Jesus at my side. This caused an uproar in our fan base since many could not relate to my experience and despised the institution of the church. For me, there is a big difference between the God of the bible and the institution of the church. The latter one is run by men and women who all have their faults and might misuse the powers given to them. God, however, is trustworthy and offers the gift of redemption. We managed to get into a dialogue with our fans and soon, the waves calmed a bit, but we felt it was time to take a break from the spotlight.
As already told, we continued our creative work in the background. Was there a possibility to combine my new found faith with my passion for extreme metal? There is basically only one topic in the bible that is grim enough to be shouted on top of death or black metal music: The judgment of God as told in the last book of the bible, the book of Revelation. You can find a good summary of my vision in a video on YouTube.
By setting the book of revelation to music I believe we are doing something that has never been attempted before, that is truly unique. By 2025, we will have released all three EPs that will make up the complete Revelation music project. And then you will be able to experience the events of the apocalypse by simply listening to the fourteen intensely dramatic songs that we created. This could become such a precious heritage to future generations. 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.
Everybody is influenced by somebody else. Whom would you consider some of your biggest musical influences and how are they influential?
Listening to the five tracks on our EP, you will find influences from nineties 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 orchestra and metal arrangements.
Ah, the fun stuff. What’s your craziest tour story or the wackiest thing that’s happened during a performance? Feel free to be creative.
Oh, we had some crazy shows back in the nineties, it was all very underground-ish, and some of the venues were really lousy, but then again, you were on the road with your best buddies, could play your music in front of a crowd that was there just for you. You can’t beat that feeling. What made some shows more memorable were often what happened after the show. The people you connect with, the absurd situations you find yourself in, at times. There was a club on the countryside, and we had no money for a hotel so we agreed to spent the night in the already crowded backstage room. You’re dead tired and totally annoyed by the unbearable situation, but you’re also young and passable, and you have your friends with you and at some point this becomes incredibly hilarious. We didn’t sleep much and one of us puked in the sink, but neither was any plumbing installed nor was there any water… it was messy and hilarious.
Up until this point in your career, what would you describe as your favorite song you’ve recorded or performed live? What makes that song special?
The song “Schattenverse” from our first album, Sinister Reflections, is probably the most authentic song and truly intense in music and lyrics. I wrote it at a very early age. “Cryonic Zombie”, also from our first album stands out since it’s a 15 minutes through-composed song with barely any repeating riffs, this is as avant-garde as it gets. My personal go-to-songs for kicking ass are “Highland Epos” and “The Linear Scaffold” from our third Album, Schattensymphonie.
“Throne”, the first song on Revelation, is probably the pinnacle of our creative work of the past 30 years. You will be greeted by a majestic choir, depicting the scores of angels singing in the antechamber of God’s throne room. Then the train hits you in full swing, massive guitars set in and a pounding, unrelenting drum rhythm framed by a cold choir and growling vocals. This is head bang material, man! I know that our fans will love the melodic solo passages in the song, the neck breaking rhythmic passages and the somber bridge that culminates in a splendor of power metal madness. I could even imagine fans pulling out their lighters and singing along during a concert, if you know what I mean. Please watch the official video of “Throne” to immerse yourself in the emotional message of the song. “Throne” is a great opening song for Revelation due to its multi-faceted arrangement.
Is there anything else awesome, cool, or left of center the world should know about you? Secret talents or surprising tidbits?
My brother and me are really retro guys. I set up my hobby room like an eighties arcade stuffed with games and collectibles many of us may remember from our childhood. It almost feels like a shrine with all these relics from the eighties, somehow, we are stuck in that decade, and this shows in our interest outside of music. We are both collecting arcade machines and eighties style gaming consoles. Let’s play some “Choplifter” or some “Ghouls N Ghosts” on my Sega Master System, what do you say? Man, I can really wind down after a stressful day by just playing those good old vintage games. 8 bit or 16 bit, simple game principles, but lots of fun and gratification. On the arcade machine, “Donut Dodo”, is high on my list for months now. There are only 5 levels, but I’m still trying to beat it.
Closing out, what is Sanity currently working on, promoting that you can share with us or want us to know about? We love secrets, but there’s no pressure.
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.
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 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. The official videos for “Seals” and “Throne” were just released. You see, we got our hands full with exciting subjects for many years to come.
Thank you so much for sharing and taking the time to answer these questions, and best of luck moving forward.
the musical hype aka Brent Faulkner has earned Bachelor and Masters degrees in music (music Education, music theory/composition respectively). A multi-instrumentalist, he plays piano, trombone, and organ among numerous other instruments. He's a certified music educator, composer, and a freelance music journalist. Faulkner cites music and writing as two of the most important parts of his life. Notably, he's blessed with a great ear, possessing perfect pitch.