There are bands that have a special sound that sets them apart from the pack. Arkham Witch from West Yorkshire, who have been active since 2008, undoubtedly belong to these bands. We talked to singer, bassist and – since recently – guitarist Simon, who turned out to be an extremely interesting interviewee. Those who like Blue Öyster Cult are, of course, above reproach anyway…
André: Thank you very much for taking the time for us. How are you?
Simon: Hi André, – it’s nice to talk with you! I’m ok thanks for asking!
André: How would you actually classify yourselves stylistically? The Metallum says heavy/doom metal – do you think that fits?
Simon: I do think it fits – there are definitely those characteristics in our music from all the usual influences! I can’t really argue. Although we do have our thrashy moments too!
André: Which bands have influenced you the most?
Simon: The bands that have influenced me the most are: Bad News, Trouble, Manowar, Saint Vitus, Pro-Pain, M.O.D., The Obsessed, Pentagram, Cirith Ungol, Reverend Bizarre.
Probably because these are the bands that had songs that I liked so much I would jam along to the recordings which in turn influenced the writing of songs for the Lamp of Thoth and Arkham Witch. I think that in the new album you definitely can hear the thrashy influence, and the thematic influence of Manowar is never far away! And early exposure to Bad News recordings meant that we would never take our music too seriously!
André: Your album Swords Against Death was released in September. In your opinion, does it differ from previous releases in one significant way? And what do you personally consider to be the most remarkable aspects of the album?
Simon: I suppose it differs from I am Providence (the last official album) in that it downplays the more nicely recorded backing vocals and returns to longer songs with a more trad metal emphasis but I think there is still that punky aspect to the album. I think the most remarkable thing is that we managed to record the album at all. It was in the middle of the second lockdown and times were very strange – it really is a culmination of all our influences – it’s not polished and it’s not pretty but it is us.
André: Let’s say someone asks you for a play recommendation: Which song would you highlight? Which track is particularly representative of Arkham Witch in the year 2023?
Simon: I think of the best songs we have at the moment is the song “Azathoth“ from Three Bladed Doom EP, its balls to the wall stompy heavy metal just the way we like it! It‘s got the Lovecraftian lyrics – the nwobhm tinge and the moshing middle section typical of what we like to do!
André: I like the artwork very much. What can you tell our readers about it?
Simon: I started with the idea of Fritz Lieber and looking at the covers of his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouserstories from the old paperbacks. I always loved the Lord of the Rings poster that the guy from KLF (Jimmy Cauty) did in the 80’s with the decorated border so we wanted that element in there too, so that was the starting point – but in the words of the artist herself Jowita Kamińska-Peruzzi:
“It wasn’t meant to look like a tarot card, but it indeed turned out looking like one a bit. I pretty much followed Simon’s idea for the cover which he described to me in detail, adding some extra elements and symbols. The idea was to make it look like Art Nouveau style (which is actually my favourite style in the history of art) – in the end, I didn’t paint it quite in that style, but you can definitely notice certain characteristic elements and traits of it there, including some symbols and of course the frame. I made it look more like a slightly stylized illustration instead painting in my typical realistic style.”
André: How was the feedback regarding Swords Against Death so far?
Simon: So far the feedback has been very positive and we are very happy that people are enjoying the ideas we coming up with whilst drinking beer and rehearsing!
André: Are you planning to perform live in 2023? Are there already fixed dates that we should note in our calendars?
Simon: We are hopefully returning to Belgium in August for Dammenation Fest and are very much looking forward to sampling their very fine beers and catching up with old friends. We also should be in Germany for Metal Hart Fest in September in honour of our late friend Hart who released our debut album. We also have gig in our hometown coming up and then one in London, so we are slowly getting back into playing live. We are looking for a new lead guitarist – I have taken over 2nd guitar for the moment which makes playing the new stuff live an interesting challenge.
André: Which festivals would you particularly like to play at?
Simon: Donnington! But that dream died many years ago! [laughs] We are happy to play at any metal festival that will have us. The small metal festivals in Europe are our favourites to play because of the great people, music and bands.
André: On our blog, the focus is always on underground bands. How do you evaluate the underground metal scene in your home country?
Simon: The underground metal scene is a bit better than it used to be always great old school bands playing around and about I just wish the beer was cheaper! I have just purchased tickets to see Raven and the Tygers of Pang Tang – the up side of the downfall of the mainstream media is that there doesn’t seem to be any trends anymore – musically everything seems to exist on a level– when we were starting out traditional metal was seen as so old and uncool – it‘s great that these bands can still practice their art and gain younger fans and keep the momentum of their heavy metal trajectories still orientated towards Valhalla.
André: Which albums released in 2022 did you particularly like?
Simon: I really enjoyed Albert Bouchard’s versions of the Imaginos stuff and of his take on some of the Blue Öyster Cult classics– a Lovecraft inspired rock opera with fantastic lyrics and imagery and it‘s great to hear the Imaginos story as it was supposed to be heard. Looking forward to hearing the third part.
André: Do you have an insider tip for our readers, an album that they should definitely check out?
Simon: No real tips – I just like what I like! I saw a band called Workshed last year which I really enjoyed great riffs and energy. I am currently going through a Blue Öyster Cult phase listening to all their old albums and enjoying the nexus point in their music where the psychedelic, the heavy and the rock and roll meet. Which is coincidental because I have also just got a hold of the new Elric book by Michael Moorcock so enjoying the Prince of Ruins in both mediums!
André: Last question: What do you think about streaming?
Simon: What consenting adults get up to in the privacy of their own home is no concern of mine. But if you want to support underground metal bands please buy a copy of their music in some form preferably from the band itself. Because everything is getting harder out there and if you don’t support the bands directly a lot of them won’t survive this depression and the only thing that will be left is corporate A.I. generated metal Muzak processed by an unfeeling algorithm who never drops a pick or plays a bum note. Therefore, a Butlerian Jihad for the metal scene must come.
André: Simon, thank you for the interview! It’s 9 March – and you’ve probably already secured the title of “best closing statement”.