There aren’t many bands that have been featured on our blog as often as the Heathen Kings – their first three singles have been reviewed separately. With their debut album Fealty to None finally out in just over 2 weeks, we spoke to Joel Kurta (drums, songwriting) to heighten your anticipation for this year’s highlight in the classic metal sector.
André: Thank you very much for taking the time for us. How are you?
Joel: I’m really well thank you, hope you are doing great too!
André: After all the great concerts in the last weeks I feel excellent, thank you! What was the last album you listened to before this interview?
Joel: Megaton Sword’s new record Might and Power has been on pretty constant rotation over the last few days, I love it. I did also just give the new Metallica album a go to, but there’s probably just about enough people on the internet talking about that one already.
André: Have you already bought an album that was released this year?
Joel: I feel a bit bad admitting it but I don’t buy albums. I love that physical merch still sells in the metal scene but I don’t even own a CD player. When I want to support a band I buy a T-shirt. I’ve added Wytch Hazel and Sellsword to my stack quite recently… I know that wasn’t the question but I’ll say that to feel better. I loved the recent Spell album too so I need to get a T-shirt for them.
André: Since we have already reported about you many times on the Epic Metal Blog, we can do without a more detailed introduction here. Just this much: What have been the highlights in your short band history so far? You have recently performed live several times…
Joel: You guys have been great supporters of the band which is hugely appreciated. The reception we got to the first 3 singles we put out a couple of years back was amazing. The positivity towards those songs was lovely. In terms of live stuff there’s been some really nice gigs but supporting Wytch Hazel at the beginning of this year was quality. They slayed and all 5 of us are big fans so it was cool to all be on the bill.
André: Your – amazing – debut album Fealty to None will be released on 26/05. First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the great artwork. Can you please tell our readers some background information about it?
Joel: Thank you so much. All the props go to our artist Charlie Johnston. We just guide him with the lyrics and a few rough concepts. The song itself “Fealty to None“ was really just about two rivals with neither willing to submit to the rule of the other. It’s sort of written from the perspective of a defiant warrior lord type character who would rather die than lose the identity of his people. It’s obviously quite a common theme in fantasy literature but in this case the song isn’t specifically about any character or book. So yeah, I basically send Charlie something rambling like that and then he just turns it into a masterwork! Neat right.
André: Which artwork of metal albums did you particularly appreciate in the past?
Joel: I love Somewhere In Time by Iron Maiden for the detail in the city-scape on the back. Eternal Champion’s first album really captured a vibe too! Grand Magus’ artwork isn’t always to my taste but the Triumph and Power album had a cool more stylised look and I loved that.
André: How does the songwriting work in your band?
Joel: Most of the time we all write separately, so it’s a bit different for each of us, but in a nutshell, we are all songwriters and have small home studio setups. We will demo songs on our own and then put them to the rest of the band when they are done. Some stuff then may get revised a bit. For example Andy our singer is wonderful at arranging the details of harmonies and finalising guitar arrangements. Once we’ve got that done we will rehearse them up ready to perform and record.
André: Is there a track on Fealty to None that you particularly like?
Joel: I really like “Warrior’s choice”. I don’t know whether it’s one of the stronger songs or not, but I always really liked it and Oscar’s lead guitar work on it blows my mind every time I hear it.
André: Are there any stories from the Tolkien cosmos that you would definitely like to tell on a Heathen Kings album in the near future?
Joel: We’ve already got two songs written about the Paths of the Dead, one song from myself which focuses a bit on the Aragorn story and one from our guitarist Oscar with a slightly different take, so look out for them at some point! I really love the character of Théoden so I will probably go back and write more on that narrative at some point.
André: What are your plans for 2023? Are there already more live gigs booked?
Joel: We have our album launch show later this month on the 26th May. We are all super excited about playing Warhorns Fest later in the year. We have a date booked with Tailgunner which will be cool. We have a good hand-full of other shows two. There’s definitely room in the diary for a few more too but we are really pleased with how the year is shaping up.
André: Which five albums would you take with you to the famous desert island?
Joel: Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, In The court Of The Crimson King, The Revenant King, Nightfall In Middle-Earth, Operation: Mindcrime.
André: Sounds amazing – I should visit you! Last question: Let’s say you had a bunch of money to spend on live shows – what would a Heathen Kings gig look like? Dreaming is allowed!
Joel: We have this argument at band practice all the time. We can’t decide if we are a “props” band or not. If we are then I suppose we want loads of cannons! Check out our song England Expects for a big Napoleonic wars vibe. Really though, I’d be happy if we could just get ourselves together and organise one of those logo backdrops. Maybe we should start there and then go big on the cannons in 2024.
André: Joel, thank you for the interview. Give my regards to the rest of the band. I wish you all the best for your debut album – and maybe you will be on stage in Germany soon…