WOLFENMOND is a German band set up in 1999 around Sonja Saltara. The band saw the daylight during a wonderful night sitting around the campfire, telling old stories with a full moon shining brightly in the clear sky. A lot has happened since then. From playing traditional Medieval music, they have increasingly created their own songs and more important, an own style. Today WOLFENMOND is a symbiosis of dark Electronic sounds, heavy guitars and historical instruments such as bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy and Viking instruments. The new album “Aufbruch” released on Trisol is the band’s first work since 2009. The work reveals a Medieval reverie mixed with mysterious atmospheres and empowered by heavy guitar playing. Sonja Saltara’s impressive way of singing is another main aspect of the production. “Aufbruch” stands for authenticity and emotion. I talked about the album with Sonja Saltara and Christo de Marmedico.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: If I’m right, “Aufbruch” is WOLFENMOND’s first new album since “Neumond” (2009). I think we can speak about a true resurrection, but what happened in the meantime and how does it feel to have released this new work?
Christo: Yes, you are right. “Aufbruch” is the first publication since 2009. I like the word ‘resurrection’, but let’s call it a ‘planned resurrection’. In the ten years we never stopped working on this album. We work in our own studio, which gives us time to develop the songs without any time pressure. As you said in the review, we worked with a choir and other guest musicians and started some experiments to develop the new sound of “Aufbruch”. After such a long time it is hard to describe the feeling to get this work published and see how many people listen to it…
Q: “Aufbruch” is a conceptual album, which is inspired by mythology and the universe of Vikings. What is it really all about and what fascinates you in the universe of the Vikings?
Sonja: We take all our inspiration from our travels to Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland. When you are down there, at the ancient settlements of the Vikings seeing the icebergs drifting along the coast, hearing its crackling, all your thoughts are silent. You are right there in the moment, feeling really free, close to your roots, your past and future. That is the place, where we write our songs. Perhaps it is pure nature or the need to focus on the most important things in life that make the Viking way of life fascinating to us. Today our world is very complex and complicated in many ways. But down there you have to focus on a few things that really count to survive and to face dangers, death and freezing winters.
Q: Sonja, you’re the front woman of WOLFENMOND while women also had a real important place in the universe of the Vikings. What does that mean to you and what have been your experiences as female artist in a music scene, which is clearly dominated by men?
Sonja: This is an interesting thought that has actually never crossed my mind. When performing, I never felt like I was competing in any way with my male colleagues. As far as we know, the women of the Viking Age had a lot of responsibility for house and farm, were able to break bonds, were allowed to fight and were in many ways more self-confident and modern than women in later Christianity in the Middle Ages.
I would also describe myself as a confident woman, regardless of whether I perform on stage or in real life, and this is how it is reported to me by women and men. In that regard, I am very happy with my role as a female musician.
Q: “Aufbruch” sounds as Medieval- and Mystic music mixed with harder Metal guitar riffs. Tell us a bit more about the ‘sound’ of the album and how did the writing of the album happen? What have been the input of the other members and how did the collaboration with the choir happened (especially considering the pandemic and all its restrictions)?
Christo: We were lucky that the recordings for “Aufbruch” were all made before the pandemic. In the final stage of production, the consulation on mixing and mastering had to be done via Zoom or the old-fashioned way over the phone. Usually, our workflow starts with Sonja writing a new text. Then it’s my job to find a melody that best fits the topic. The next step is to arrange the instruments, drums and guitars around the main hookline. As soon as the basic structure of the song is ready, each musician begins to work on his part and develops his own ideas, which we put together at the next band meeting.
We are in the pleasant situation that every Wolfenmond musician is already vaccinated, which makes it much easier for us to meet in person.
Q: The use of authentic instruments seems to be very important, but clearly also reveals a true interest for old, folk instruments. Tell us a bit more about this passion and especially your experiences by playing all these instruments? Are there some favorites? How do you learn playing these instruments?
Sonja Saltara: Christo is the minstrel. He plays most of the historical instruments.
Christo: As a child I had to learn the guitar, piano and other orchestral instruments like bassoon. Of course, that’s not nearly as cool as playing the bagpipes or the hurdy-gurdy. But it’s hard to believe that I can still fall back on the skills I learned back then. I mostly teach myself to play historical instruments. Right now, I’m learning to play Talharpa (a traditional Viking instrument) which is actually addicting. The unique sound and authenticity of these instruments fascinate me. Even if many of the historical instruments are built in a simple manner, playing them is often complicated and requires a lot of practice and patience. Nevertheless, there will be a taste of the Talharpa in one of our new songs, which we will most likely released by end of May.
Q: Several videos have been made from the “Aufbruch”-album. What did you try to express by the clips wherein the element of nature seems to be important as well? What are the further plans?
Sonja Saltara: Our album “Aufbruch” is mainly telling the story of the Viking Erik the Red, who was exiled from Iceland to Greenland. He was crossing the Norwegian Sea in 985 to settle in South Greenland. So it was only logical that we chose these locations as the setting for our videos. We shot in both Iceland and Greenland, as well as in the old Viking settlements and cultural places in Sweden and Denmark. We had the great opportunity to shoot one of our videos standing on an Icelandic glacier and for our video of the song “Verbannt” (Banished) I had to swim between the icebergs in South Greenland. Filming in wilderness areas is always a challenge. We had to travel via jeep or boat – and sometimes we even had to walk to reach our location. Can you image, what it feels like to sit by a camp fire the Northern Lights above? In these places we are as close as possible to the way Vikings used to live in former times and that’s what we want to express…
Christo: Our future plans are pretty clear: We are working on new songs, three new tracks and 2-3 videos will be released in Summer (expected date: end of May). The songs are sung in Old Norse with a lot of Metal- and great Viking instruments such as talharpa, lyre or a bone flute made from a swan’s wing. We don’t even know what to do with all of our ideas and we can’t wait to get the new songs out there…