Laura Guldemond is lead singer with heavy metal group, Burning Witches. The band are set to release their fourth album, The Witch Of The North, which is out on Friday May 28th. The band will also perform a livestream on release day at 7pm GMT.
We caught up with Laura in the run up to the release of the album and had a chat about the inspiration for the album, songwriting methods, playing live, Patreon and much more.
Congratulations on the album. It really rips! Are you feeling settled in the group after being brought in as the new singer?
Yes, definitely. It’s all more normalised now. In the beginning, you just have to get used to how everything goes and now I almost don’t feel like a tourist in Switzerland!
It must be hard coming into a group as a new singer? Every aspect of the band is vital but as the singer you are front and centre.
You kind of risk people hating you! The fans that are there probably came in for the vocalist that was previously in the band. It’s tricky.
You’re not hanging around with The Witch Of The North; another album hot on the heels of the last one!
Well because of COVID we just worked on the album because we couldn’t tour.
How does the songwriting process differ from other projects you’ve been involved with?
It’s mostly Romana (guitarist with Burning Witches). She lays down a song structure and composition. We work on our own parts a bit. Larissa (lead guitarist with Burning Witches) writes her own solos that lie on top of the song structure. Everything that doesn’t have anything to do with the song structure, we work on individually. It means that I can do a little more with my vocals. I get sent the music and I will see what the vibe of the song is. We decide on a theme which is The Witch Of The North this time, and I look to a lot of Norse mythology. I just write down song titles and nothing more; I had about twenty ideas this time and I try to match the title to the song.
That’s an interesting method, at least to me! I guess the song title is the first thing you see.
Most of the time it is something that is in the chorus. So if you’re thinking of a theme, it usually ends up being a part of the chorus too. It all comes together with a few words.
Lady Of The Woods has more of a ballad style. How important is it to you to have that variety on the album? It gives you the chance to show more sides to your voice too.
Definitely. It’s tradition to have a ballad in the album. Plus, for me, it’s fun. For the listener, if you have a full album of loud stuff you might want a break. That’s how I feel when I listen to an album. I really love it when there is some diversity to it, but ultimately we make heavy metal!
I agree. Having a little break within an album is a good thing.
And if you’re not in the mood, you can make a playlist without the ballads! That’s the easy thing these days. I did always, and still do prefer listening to full albums from the beginning to the end. The Witch Of The North is definitely an album that you want to listen to from the beginning to the end. We really make sure that we have the intro and the outro and somewhere halfway there is a little interlude. It keeps you in the mood, like a movie. I would definitely recommend listening to the album in full.
Like you say, it’s like a narrative. You can really feel that in the album.
Going back to playlists. You obviously made the record to be listened to as a whole piece; do you think that the album concept is still important?
For the metal community, I feel that it is. I also think that if you listen to certain pop artists, they have an album sound. I think that if you choose to release an album, it’s nice that it is all together. That’s a good question!
Sitting and listening to an album on the stereo is a brilliant experience. You can really take in the whole package and the artwork. The artwork is special. Burning Witches artwork usually is and you look fierce on this one! How do you go about deciding on the artwork and who to work with?
We usually use the same artist but they were busy this time. Because of that we needed to find another artist. We knew he (Claudio Bergamin) had done art for Judas Priest’s Firepower and Battle Beast. He really got what we wanted with us on the front like comic book characters. Hero stuff. Like heavy metal heroes!
It’s really cool. Does the front cover have any link to the track, Circle of Five?
Yeah, you’re right. It gives off a good vibe of us as a group, around Freya. She’s sometimes seen as the goddess that gives witches their power.
What is also fun with Circle of Five is that I thought it was funny to write lyrics about us flying, because witches are supposed to fly on broomsticks! You know what, we were flying over the mountain tops that you can see in the background.
Circle of Five is a little biographical then?
Abolsutely. It was the first song we wrote for the album before all the others because we had the line up change and we used the song as an introduction. We also wanted to show the fans that we weren’t ending and that we were alright. Fans always want to know how it is going to be with the new line up.
Larissa is the new guitarist yes?
Has it been a smooth transition?
Yes. She does a really great job. I love her solo playing style; she a really good feel for setting the vibe of a song in her playing. I really like that. She plays very steadily; the music sounds almost heavier because of that. It’s a little like how doom metal players play; she has that kind of vibe in her playing but obviously it’s faster!
I think that Circle of Five that we have talked about, and We Stand As One are going to be massive songs when you all hit the stage again. Are there any songs you’re particularly looking forward to playing live?
Certainly We Stand As One. It’s cool. You can really sing along with it and it has the festival vibe. I’m kind of curious about Thrall because it’s one of the louder ones – I really hope we get some big energy and plenty of moshpits!
How was it have Chris Caffrey from Savatage play on Hall Of The Mountain King?
It was great. We were so happy that he wanted to do it. When he listened to it he said lets do it. He said that he would love to help us out. It turned into a really cool song.
It’s a great end to the album, giving a nod to one of the influences on the band.
How are you going to go about putting a setlist together with all your material stacking up now?
We make sure that we have a good balance between all the albums. We just pick the most awesome, epic songs! We’ll be playing plenty of them on our livestream on 28th May.
Going back to the first two albums, are there any particular songs that you really enjoy singing off those ones?
I really love Black Widow because it’s so energetic. That’s one of the first times I heard Burning Witches. I love the energetic stuff.
Are there any songs from those records that you would like to play that maybe haven’t been played live before, or not played too much?
We just did Dark Companion for about five gigs. I really like that one. Hopefully we’ll play that in the future. It’s a really fun song.
How much has having a platform like Patreon helped you personally in a time without live shows? You’re also very active on YouTube…
It’s really important to me because it has really helped me transition into being a full time vocal coach and move away from side jobs. I’m very happy that I did it. It’s a lot of fun. Lots of people have been asking for posters so I can give people what they want and I can live from music. I hope that it will get easier and I hope that we get to do more gigs soon.
It takes a lot of time and effort doing the videos for Patreon though. I have about ten cover videos in the making. I’m good at the singing, but I’m not so good at the editing. It takes me a long time…I keep postponing it!
We also want to invest in the band though. Previously, we have always made our own stage costumes but it would be really great to get someone to help us with that.
Some of those covers are great. I’m a big Iron Maiden fan.
Hallowed Be Thy Name right?
Yes! What a track!
We’ve also got a cover of Children Of The Damned to upload too!
Doing the covers was the way we came about doing the Hall Of The Mountain King. I was looking at doing it but we had to do it with Burning Witches. It really fits with the album.
I know you have your metal influences, but are there any singers or artists that you look to outside of heavy metal for inspiration?
I have a lot. Every different one kind of inspires be do something different. Lzzy Hale from Halestorm; it’s more rock than metal but her voice can sound super aggressive and I love that. She was one of my inspirations to get more into distorted voices. For some reason it was not very natural for me to do so I put a lot of effort into it. It’s like second nature now, but Lzzy was one of my inspirations when I started learning that stuff. I also like Kamelot – they have lots of different singers but each one has so much control over what they are doing. I would love to be able to control things that well.
Listen to Laura Guldemond flexing her vocal chords with Burning Witches on the bands video for The Witch Of The North.