Kristian Niemann of Sorcerer: Interview

Sorcerer have just released their brilliant new album, Reign Of The Reaper (our review here). We caught up with Kristian Niemann; guitarist with the band; to talk about the new record, potential cover versions, playing live and more.

Picture: Marieke Verschuren
Reign Of The Reaper is a really top record and you’re all playing up a storm. Could you tell us a little bit more about the album?

Yeah, I mean, coming off of Lamenting Of The Innocent in 2020, we felt like we wanted to do something a bit shorter. That was kind of a long album, you know, over an hour long; and the songs were kind of long.

First of all, I have to say, I don’t think we’re really a doom band, per se. I mean, if I think doom, I think maybe Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus; I think Sorcerer are a bit more than that. It’s a mix.

I think that the last album (Lamenting Of The Innocent) was very slow and heavy and all that stuff, but we wanted to, for ourselves, pick up the tempo a little bit, do a little bit of a shorter album. The idea was to fit it on one vinyl record; 45 minutes being pretty much the limit. So that was one limit we set for ourselves, you know, which meant shorter songs, a bit of a higher tempo… also that’s good when you choose songs for live shows, it’s fun to have songs which are a bit up tempo. This means that not all songs are super slow; it makes the performance more dynamic.

So we wanted to do shorter songs, more to the point, a bit more aggressive. But that was probably the only thing we talked about, you know, and then we just got on writing as we as we normally do, and try to pick the best best stuff that would that would fit.

what Is the writing process, then? what DO YOU normally do? HOW DO YOU GET THE SONGS together?

Usually, it’s me. And Peter (Hallgren) the other guitar player. We write most of the riffs, you know; most of the music. But also Johnny Hagel, our old bass player, he’s still involved in the writing and he comes up with a few ideas. But yeah, Johnny sends us a few riffs and me and Peter come up with a bunch of stuff on our own. We arranged into songs and then we send it off to Anders (Engberg – vocalist) and Conny (Welén), who is co-producer and the fifth/sixth/seventh seventh member, I guess you would say!

They work on song melodies and arrangements and then they send back a song to us and ask us what we think of it. , Then it’s a back and forth until we have a solid piece of music that we think is good. We have a structure and it works. And, you know, the melody works. So now, and then Justin (Biggs) comes in and usually writes the lyrics now. It used to be Anders, but Justin has sort of taken over that part. He’s really good at writing lyrics. So pretty much every song is a collaboration.

That’s great. And I think, just from LISTENING, IT IS CLEAR that you’ve got great chemistry.
there’s been quite a few members of SORCERER over the years. WOULD IT BE FAIR TO SAY THAT you’ve got a bit more of a settled lineup now?

Yeah, we do. I mean our previous drummer Ricky, he left after the record was finished, but apart from that we’ve been together now, me and Anders and Peter has played together since I think it 2012 I believe. And Justin then joined in 2017. And now around the same time as Ricky joined, but now we have Stefan Norgren in the band from Seventh Wonder, he joined over the summer. I think we have a really great line-up. I think we’re going to make some some more records together with this line-up, for sure.

Kristian Niemann
Picture: Marieke Verschuren
that’s great news. like you just alluded to about the album being shorter; the tracks are punchier, But it’s great to mix it up. And I think you’re right in saying that you’re not a full Doom Band. You’ve got the elements. But you disappear into lots of different directions in terms of metal.

People want to put labels on stuff so you can understand; ‘this is alternative or this is grunge or this is grindcore. Okay, well, maybe just listen to it, and you make up your mind what it is.’ But of course, we’re heavy and huge fans of, say Candlemass and Sabbath and, and all those bands but also like Rainbow and, you know, King Diamond and Metallica and Maiden and Priest you know. There’s a lot of influences.

WHO WOULD BE YOUR MAJOR INFLUENCES IN TERMS OF GUITARISTS? are there any guitarists that you model your style on or use as part of your style?

Sure, I mean, both me and Peter are huge fans of Yngwie Malmsteen of course. You gotta love Yngwie! For rock guitar soloing, that’s the bar. You know, his stuff in the 80s. Untouched. Unparalleled.

But then, you get all those Shrapnel Records; Paul Gilbert, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Greg Howe all those guys. Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth; huge influence. Then more modern guys as well, lie, not really new, but Michael Romeo of Symphony X. A big one for me, you maybe can’t hear it within this music but, Allan Holdsworth. Jazz fusion, you know, legend. Huge one for me. I would say Yngwie is the foundation, and then all the guys that came after that and before like I said, Schenker, Uli…

sticking with the guitar LINE…you say that Peter and yourself WRITE a together. Have you got any PERSONAL favourite parts on the new album that you really like? obviously, you’re confident in it all AND you like it all, BUT ARE THERE BITS THAT MAKE YOU THINK ‘THAT’S GOOD!’

Good question. Sure. The opening to Morning Star; the very first thing you hear on the album. That whole part is like…I get goose bumps. I wrote it, but I get goose bumps from from hearing it back! You know, that sounds maybe really egotistical but I love that part. It comes back before the solos. It’s such a wonderful, cool melody.

Also, I really like the chorus part in Thy Kingdom Will Come. When it goes from that the faster section via the bridge into the really heavy chorus and then the melody; I love those parts.

But like you say, there’s lots of cool stuff I love. Peters acoustic playing on the last song break, Break Of Dawn, is fantastic with Anders singing and drumming as well. There are so many parts which I am really happy with. I can’t actually think of anything which I’m not not happy with because then it probably wouldn’t have been on the album. But those those which ones I mentioned, those really stand out for me.

Morning star was the first single. was there any particular reason behind that? it’s like a call to arms.

I agree. It’s a really strong opener. And I think why we chose it first of all is because it’s almost like everything which is featured on the album is in Morning Star. There’s slow parts, there’s the quiet parts and the faster parts. It really is a mix of everything. I just think we also thought it was probably the best song, or the one of the best songs. We felt it was a strong statement. And like you said, a call to arms. That’s a really great way to put it. I think you’re absolutely right. You know, with the marching in the beginning; it’s a great introduction to the album. And that’s why it’s the first song as well on the album.

I REALLY LIKE the fact that you’ve tried to condense it onto one record. And just make it tight and concise. it loses none of the epicness OR GRANDEUR.

Yeah, I think so too. I think it’s really difficult to keep keep an album interesting for an hour. Even 45 minutes is kind of long, you know. I grew up in the 80s. So cassette tapes being 90 minutes; 45 per side. You can fit an album on there. That’s a good baseline. I appreciate that. you think it’s it’s not too short or whatever, It’s a good concise record that probably doesn’t have any weak moments and we don’t think there are any throwaway tracks. We just wanted to fill it with all quality. That’s why there’s only eight songs. So probably the best eight songs we had for sure.

that’s a good thing Because you’ve got that element of quality control TOO. SOME BANDS DON’T KNOW WHEN TO STOP! is it all sorcerer WHEN RECORDING AND PRODCUING?

Yeah, it’s all Sorcerer. We produce the albums ourselves. We’ve always done that. We don’t have an outside people telling us what to do because we have a clear vision of what we want to do.

We just talked amongst ourselves and we we have pretty much the same idea when it comes to arrangements and quality. When we have the songs we vote; I think we made it had like 14/15 songs that were sort of finished and then we voted on those. It’s a democratic vote. Everybody gets to rank the songs from 10 to 1. Then we work on the eight best ones.

When we trimmed down from 15 to 8, it’s more manageable and we can really get into the arrangement and melodies and everything and start to really shape them into what they are on the album. That’s an important thing. With the vote thing, maybe some people are going to be unhappy with some choices because your favourite song didn’t get picked or whatever. But in the end, it’s a democracy and in that way there’s no one person running the band. It’s all really collective.

that’s really good. Democracy is the best policy, isn’t it? Of those songs, Do you ever go back to the ones that you’ve perhaps SCRAPPED and try and improve them maybe for a future release?

That’s a great question. Actually, no, because we do exactly what you say, we save the old ideas, of course. But then, as the next album comes around, we listen to those old ideas and think maybe we can do something with it. I can’t remember a single instance where that happened. Maybe we stole one little idea, like a little riff or something, and worked on that one. But I think not none of the songs that were left off the previous album has made it onto this one, This is all newly written stuff.

I guess we tend to be kind of bored that way. You know, you hear the old stuff. And you remember how this one was a reject from the last album? Do we really want to take that up again? Why? It was rejected for a reason. As I said, we might take it up and pillage and plunder some parts, but never as a whole.

the reverence EP is coming with the deluxe vinyl. Was that a democratic thing as well; picking songs for that?
I’m a big fan of headless cross. So seeing when death calls on there MADE ME HAPPY. you paid it ITS dUE. on THE YouTube CLIP THERE ARE SOME GREAT COMMENTS. someone WROTE Saying that you’ve been true to it AND you’ve given it the endING it deserved.

Yeah? Oh, that’s nice. I need to go in and read some comments, I think!

Yeah, like you said, it was very democratic. I think everybody submitted, like five songs that we wanted to do.

None of my songs made it because I did not want to record metal songs at all. I wanted to do famous pop songs; Madonna, Tears for Fears, whatever, you know, stuff like that and really make them heavy. But the guys shut that down. Totally. No one voted for my suggestions!

WHICH songs didn’t make the cut?

If I tell you then then we might not want to record those in the future! They’re still in my head. I still want to make some something out of those. But, I can tell you some artists. There’s some ABBA ideas floating around. In my previous band, Therion, we did Summer Night City. Which was cool, you know, We’ll cover another ABBA song for sure.

Most of them are like 80s band. You know, ABBA is an exception, but the other ones I had were like 80s bands that were not super famous; Madonna was a bad example. But you know, 80s sort of, half famous bands. It was probably a wise choice to not go that way because, you know, people would have gone like, ‘Okay, yeah, I don’t know this band and I don’t know Sorcerer. So fuck this;’ it’s better to choose Black Sabbath or Ozzy like we chose.

you played a bloodstock last year? THAT WAS YOUR FIRST SHOW IN ENGLAND WASN’T IT?

We had never been to England before. We did play a show in Wales in 2016. That was the only time we played in UK. There was some people asking us to please come over saying , “I think Bloodstock would be a great festival for you guys.” And yeah, we we made it happen. And it was fantastic. We had such a great time. A lot of… a lot of people from from England want us to come back. You know, we really want to see you guys again. So we’re working on that for sure.

Our thanks go to Kristian and Sorcerer for their time. Reign Of The Reaper is out now, everywhere. Check out the title track below. Our Reign Of The Reaper review is here.

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