Roland Neubauer, vocalist and composer of the Hungarian Atmospheric Black Metal band WitcheR, answered few questions for the release of the band’s third album, Lélekharang.
Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Could you please introduce yourself and the band WitcheR without using the usual “Metal” labels?
Roland Neubauer (vocals/instruments): Hi Matthieu! I greet the readers and we thank you for your endless support for our band. WitcheR exists over 12 years now, where Karola and I can freely use our creative freedom, without almost any borders. We do not care what the actual trend is; we play what comes from us. Our goal is to create a certain atmosphere and give something to the people.
Where does the name WitcheR come from, and what is its link with the music you play? Is there a reason why you decided to keep the R in capital letter?
Roland: The WitcheR name was inspired by Andrzej Sapkowski’s outstanding novels and the video games made from them, which was later recognised by the world as The Witcher – mainly after the TV series. We wanted a short, simple name for the band, which is connected to witchcraft, to the old values; which people can understand anywhere in the world and can connect to. There is no special reason for the capital R, just wanted to separate us a little bit from Sapkowski’s well-known world.
Your third album, Lélekharang, is about to come out, how do you feel about it?
Roland: The album is already out and we are very proud of it. This is a huge part of our life, our traditional world, there is a great amount of work in it and regarding the feedbacks, our listeners do appreciate it. I would not change a single note in it, every song echoes a memory in me, and it is a great feeling that we can give something with it to others.
How could you sum the album Lélekharang with only three words?
Roland: Witchery, atmosphere and tradition.
What can you tell me about the composition of the album Lélekharang? Was it different from the previous releases?
Roland: Our work routine is the same for more than 10 years; we work without pressure or anything like that, so ‘Lélekharang’ was created just like the previous records. Obviously, we have evolved as composers, our equipment got better, but the basics are still the same. We stubbornly stick to our way.
What can you tell me about the artwork? Did you give the artist some guidelines to create it?
Roland: Yes, I had a definite idea in mind when I connected with Balázs, the leader of Grafit & Hamu, who showed an exemplary attitude, was very cooperative, had excellent insights and the result was amazing. A contemporary witch burning can be seen on the cover in a tiny ?rség village (?rség is the name of the land where we live). It also has a symbolic message, as it is a kind of cry for help towards the increasingly forgotten old values and old knowledge.
Your music is a blending of raw vocals, dark riffs and beautiful keyboards, how do you manage to give room to each element and keep the compositions coherent?
Roland: I am not able to answer that; the music of WitcheR is a kind of magic, it only works when I add my raw guitars and vocals to Karola’s beautiful themes. I think this duality works quite well, but there is really no effort involved, it simply comes from us, we do not really pay attention to what, where and how much is there, only what the mood requires.
It’s hard to choose, but the song I prefer on this album is the eponymous one, Lélekharang – Soul Bell. What can you tell me about this melancholic song?
Roland: It was not accidentally chosen for the title song and for our very first music video. When Karola came up with this enchanted melody, I immediately knew this was the song most of the people would identify the album with. It came together easily, this was maybe the first song we finished and defines the 2022 WitcheR very well. The lyrics are about sticking to old values, do not forget where you came from, where are your roots. “Where I was born, my cross will stand, And the old soul bell slowly tolls…”
On every full-length you released, the last song is some Classic music cover, why? This time you chose Ludwig van Beethoven, why did you pick this precise song?
Roland: There are many elements of classical music in WitcheR‘s music, and since Karola is a trained musician, she played and knew these pieces all her life, somehow it was given to become a tradition that we would like to maintain in the future, and we would even like to dedicate a complete album to it. We will see what happens… Why Beethoven? Karola came up with this idea, we tried it out, and the result was something that perfectly fitted our style and the concept of the album. I could not imagine a better ending for Lélekharang.
Since 2020, Covid-19 crisis fucked a lot of things up, how did you face the situation as a band? Did it have an impact on the album?
Roland: In no way did Covid-19 affect the band and the album, the main reason was that we did not play live, and as much as possible, we excluded all this misery from our lives, we do not watch the news, we do not follow world events very much.
Do you have plans for the band’s future?
Roland: Of course. We have kind of a big surprise for the fans of Lélekharang, yet, as a closure for this era and an opening for the next one. The new album is already being written, without any significant changes, but before that we would like to come out with a couple of interesting releases. I do not want to go into details, we will see how things go, but we have many different ideas.
I know the band is only a duo, but do you plan on playing live?
Roland: No, we do not have any plans playing live. I do not say, WitcheR cannot appear on stage anytime in the future, but at the time being, I cannot imagine that.
Do you think you still improve yourself as a musician?
Roland: Definitely. Unfortunately, I do not practise as much as I should, but I try pushing my borders, because compared to Karola I just play from my heart, basically after hearing. Karola, on the other hand, is a trained musician with a degree, who writes music sheets for everything, is aware of music theory and solfeggio; I have no idea about these.
What led you to the Metal universe back in time? What was the very first album you ever bought?
Roland: Personally, my uncle infected me with Metal more than 25 years ago. It is an eternal love; I am not able to escape from it since my childhood. The first album, I actually paid for, was an Iron Maiden tape Virtual XI, which was freshly released at that time in 1998. It is still part of my collection, by the way.
What can you tell me about the Metal scene in Hungary?
Roland: If you ask me about the complete Metal scene, then we could talk about it for hours; we have (yet) big metal magazine, labels, lot of bands and many gigs, in my opinion, our underground is also full with great bands, but there are also problems. In the first place, this genre is still on the periphery, you are still seen as an outsider if you take on your musical style, but what particularly bothers me is that today this genre is no longer about rebellion and resistance, as it was back then. There are still many things one could rebel against… To summarise, as small a country as we are, I do not think we have any reason to complain about our Metal scene.
Do you know and maybe like some French Metal bands?
Roland: Of course. We have a collection of thousands of pieces and we collect records from all over the world, so we know and love many great French bands. My personal favourites are Mütiilation and Nocturnal Depression, but Celestia, Anorexia Nervosa, Alcest, Seth, Blut Aus Nord and Manzer are also in the collection, but I am sure I forgot to mention many other favourites.
What if I ask you to compare WitcheR’s music with a dish? Which one and why?
Roland: I gave many interviews in my life, but I never got a weirder question, ha-ha. Let it be the ‘vérsterc’. I do not know how well this is known elsewhere, but in Hungary, when slaughtering a pig, the fresh blood of the killed pig is fried with some onions and spices. This dish is black as coal and may look wild and mystical from the outside, but when you taste it, it has a captivating, otherworldly taste. Just like WitcheR.
Are there any musicians or bands you would like to collaborate with? Whether it is for one song, an album…
Roland: You bet I can only say Burzum here. Or Summoning. These will obviously never come together, so I will say something more realistic: I could very well imagine a Vvilderness/WitcheR split.
That was the last question for me, so thank you very much for your time and your music, last words are yours!
Roland: We thank you for your unwavering support, as you help our work with publication after publication, which we greatly appreciate. If anyone is interested, follow us on social media, and CDs, t-shirts and tapes can be ordered continuously from our Bandcamp page.