Interview: On Atlas‘ Shoulders

Today, we present to you a very interesting interview with Marius Bönisch (vocals), Ben Chadwick (guitar) and Björn Anders (guitar) from German (epic) heavy/power metal band On Atlas’ Shoulders. Enjoy reading!

Hi, how are you doing?

Ben: First of all thanks for having us! Thankfully we can’t complain, despite the pandemic.

Marius: We just came back from a video shoot in a historic castle in Solingen, Germany (with an extensive Covid-hygiene-concept of course), which was awesome. So we are all in a good mood.

There are, for sure, some readers who don’t know On Atlas‘ Shoulders yet. Tell us a bit about the history of your band, please. 

Ben: It all started back in 2018. Marius (vocals) and I (guitar) had moved to Frankfurt in the previous years, but didn’t know each other at that point in time. We were both wanting to join or start heavy metal projects again, as we had played in bands before, and rock and metal music had always played an important role in our lives.

Marius: Ben reached out to me on an online musicians’ platform and we met for a jam at his place. It just clicked instantly and we had a great time, and after a night out in the local metal club The Cave we decided to join forces – On Atlas’ Shoulders was born. And after a few months we had teamed up with Björn (guitar) and Leo (drums).

Björn: At the time, I had lived in Frankfurt for about 2 years and already auditioned for some bands – but something always didn’t feel quite right. Either there were too many differences musically or personally, or they just wanted to rehearse and play an existing back catalogue, which would have bored me. I was always looking for an opportunity to build something up from the start and, among other things, take on the part of music production. I saw that Ben and Marius were looking for a bassist and a drummer, but I decided to reach out to them nonetheless and ask if a second guitarist might also be an option, as their influences and approach appealed to me. After a first meeting, we quickly realized that it was a great fit both musically and personally, and things started rolling quickly. 

Ben: We started writing music straight away and released our debut full-length Invictus in the summer of 2020, and we will be releasing our follow-up Hyperion in the coming months.

I really like your epic band name. Who had this great idea? And is there a special meaning behind it?

Ben: Glad you like it! We really wanted a name that was unique, memorable, sounded epic, and most importantly had a special meaning to it – as with our lyrics, we really like the things we do and write to have a higher meaning.

Marius: On Atlas’ Shoulders is derived from the philosophical and scientific concept «standing on the shoulders of giants». It implies that all progress is made by building upon previous discoveries. And we transferred that legacy concept to the musical realm, implying that new music is always a culmination of the artist’s influences, which are used to create something new and exciting!

How would you define the style of On Atlas‘ Shoulders?

Ben: That’s a great question, but also quite difficult, with the sheer amount of metal subgenres out there. I would say – depending on the individual song – we have a lot of elements of epic heavy metal and traditional heavy metal/NWOTHM, as well as some power metal and the occasional modern and prog part sprinkled in.

Björn: I would go along with that.

Marius: In the very beginning, we were classified as epic heavy metal by reviewers on the Metal Archives, and we thought it was a great subgenre, so we went with that.

Ben: Also, a lot of our lyrics deal with large, epic tales, so the genre categorization of epic heavy metal absolutely worked for us from a lyrical point of view as well.

Which bands would you classify as your major influences?

Marius: We all have quite varied influences actually. Björn is really into traditional heavy metal such as Priest, U.D.O. and Accept, Ben listens to a wide range of bands from Enforcer and Wytch Hazel all the way to Dream Theater and Unleash the Archers, Leo’s favourites include Ne Obliviscaris and Lamb of God, and I am into bands such as Dream Theater, Breaking Benjamin and Unleash the Archers as well. Across the board, really!

In June, you’re going to release your second full-length Hyperion – only a year after unleashing your debut. Did this damn pandemic play an important role in this regard?

Ben: It did. We had originally planned to support the release of Invictus with extensive gigs in Germany, but Covid made that impossible. So instead, we decided to put all the energy we had built up for the stage into writing our follow-up straight away. For example, I myself continuously record riff ideas and always have a good starting ground for new songs, and seeing as the time we had planned to put into touring was then free again, we could jump straight into working on the new songs with no real time gap. So in that regard the pandemic definitely pushed the timeline forward.

Björn: Of course it was real shit not to be able to perform after all the work we put into the first album, especially since shortly before the first lockdown, after a long and exhausting search, we had finally found a long-term rehearsal space. On the other hand, the routine we had built up quickly continued and I could simply continue with the production of the second album during the lockdown. I was really able to work on production intensely for several hours every evening, which ultimately resulted in a really great end product in our opinion. 

What do you think of Hyperion? What may your listeners expect?

Marius: We are super proud of Hyperion. It’s a diverse record, in my opinion, that really takes you on a ride. From epic tales to straight forward, fun metal tracks to dark emotions, that’s what makes this album unique I find.

Ben: Listeners will hear really memorable vocal melodies, harmonised backing vocals, dual guitar solos and really diverse songs. We put a lot of passion and energy into Hyperion and hope listeners will enjoy it!

Björn: What is to be expected is all the elements our debut album offered, but in a much more developed form. Catchy melodies, polyphonic vocals, fast drum beats, epic guitar solos and much more. 

Could you point out a favourite track on Hyperion?

Marius: Tough question! For me probably «When Heavens Collide».

Ben: That’s a great pick, that chorus together with the lyrics (which Marius wrote) is so epic! I would probably say «Ruins» though – I love the riffs (among the first I wrote for Hyperion), the deep lyrical message and the two guitar solos that build upon each other, I am definitely proud of that one.

Björn: If I had to decide, probably «5 Billion Years», because the idea just haunted me for a long time and the lyrical implementation by Marius and the very entertaining cartoon video are just great. Hopefully the solo part that starts unexpectedly and builds up will also inspire people. 

Do you generally read a lot of reviews about your music? And what was the weirdest thing you read in an article?

Marius: There was this weird review by Epic Metal Blog! Jokes aside, I actually can’t remember reading anything really «weird» about us or our music so far, to be honest. We also hope we will receive more reviews and interviews going forward, and the pace has been picking up nicely recently!

What’s your favourite festival? Where would you like to play with On Atlas‘ Shoulders in the future?

Marius: I would have to say Wacken, say what you like about the development towards the mainstream, but the number of nationalities you meet, the range of bands and styles, it’s great. Ben and I actually had tickets for 2020.

Ben: Really looking forward to Wacken as well (whenever it will be able to take place again). But I would really love to play smaller more trad metal festivals such as Keep It True or Up The Hammers!

On our blog, we focus on metal with epic elements. How would you define the term «epic» regarding music?

Ben: I would say that «epic» elements could come in the form of lyrics and/or the music itself. In terms of music, it could have an uplifting, fighting spirit, creating an aura that elevates you to battlefields or greater-than-life emotions, but could also manifest itself in an extremely tragic feeling, epic despair, fighting a fight you cannot win, that kind of thing. In terms of guitar work, certain musical keys, harmonies and playing styles support this as well.

Marius: In terms of lyrics, I would say it has to be big, soaring and also to some degree «beautiful». Choirs or multi-layered singing in the background contribute as well. In the end, you have to achieve a bombastic effect and sometimes some folk-ish elements can help a lot.

2020 was a disaster, no doubt about it. But there were some great releases: What’s your favourite album released last year?

Ben: Wytch HazelIII: Pentecost. Such a great album, every song is so memorable, one of my favourite records of 2020!

Marius: Unleash the ArchersAbyss. Awesome power metal with a phenomenal female powerhouse at the vocals.

Ben: That’s a great choice too, Unleash the Archers are one of my favourites as well. Canada has such great metal, makes me proud to be Canadian haha.

Björn: U.D.O.We Are One, very interesting stuff, heavy metal in combination with the Army Music Corps.

In your merch shop you sell bio products. Is a topic like sustainability very important for you?

Ben: We generally don’t like to tell people what they should or should not do, and rarely make political statements as a band. But I personally absolutely believe sustainability is a very important issue, which is why I decided to switch some of our products to eco-friendly alternatives. If that kind of thing is possible, doesn’t require a lot of effort and is economically feasible, there is no good reason not to, in my opinion. And small steps can go a long way in the big picture.

Marius: The topic has also found its way into our lyrics from time to time: «Leviathan», which Ben wrote, deals with humanity’s abuse of the earth’s resources, with the mythical beast representing the many facets of the earth’s rebellion. But as Ben mentioned, we don’t per se make political statements, but rather tell stories from different points of view. «5 Billion Years», for example, deals with a protagonist who is faced with all the moral dilemmas of today’s day and age, poverty, war, climate change and so on, and he/she is overwhelmed, also because there are many people shaming him/her for not fighting for their cause. In the end, everyone has to decide for themselves what they believe in and what they want to fight for. And never forget to have fun during your time on this earth!

Björn: Basically, we don’t want to tell anyone what to do or what not to do. Especially in this day and age, you have to be careful with political statements anyway, because the internet can haunt you for a lifetime and even lead to disadvantages in your professional life. Ultimately, of course, everyone has an opinion on most things. But supporting sustainability should be a matter of common sense that should not really offend anyone.

Last question: Blind Guardian or Helloween?

Marius: Uff, that’s a tough one because one of my favorite singers and personal inspirations (Michael Kiske) is part of Helloween. But when it comes to the entire package, I prefer Blind Guardian

Ben: Helloween is awesome («I want out!» – such a great sing-along moment), but I would probably have to go with Blind Guardian for their overall work and also their lyrical Tolkien influences.

Marius: That was a mean question, shame on you, haha. Stay strong and rock on guys, see you on the road once we get through this pandemic mess!

Looking forward to it! Many thanks for your time. I’m sure that our readers will enjoy this great interview – and check out your stuff! Stay safe!

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