This interview with Matthias Voigt of Heaven Shall Burn was done by e-mail by Andrej Van Berlo in March 2005.

The death metal band Heaven Shall Burn has become one of the leading acts in the German ‘metalcore’ scene of today. With having released 4 full-length albums and a couple of split-CDs, it seemed appropriate to have a first TD interview with the band. This e-mail interview with drummer Matthias Voigt was done by Andrej Van Berlo in March 2005.

Hi, I was wondering what the band has been up to lately?
Hey. During the last weeks we had been busy with writing new songs for the split-CD with Caliban. At the moment, we’re almost done and ready to hit the studio. I think the whole thing will be out in July via Lifeforce Records.

How do you look back at the ‘The Weapon They Fear Tour?’ Where there any highlights or less good memories you’d like to share? Also you’re thoughts on being part of the Resistance Tour package on a couple of dates.
The tour was a huge success for us. There wasn’t even one really bad evening and many of the shows were even sold-out or, at least, really close to that. It was quite impressive to see so many different people going to shows...even during the week. There were metal heads, punks, hc-kids...all together had a great time. I think there are lots of things that we’ll always keep in mind. The first show of the tour was the Hellfire-fest at the SO36 in Berlin. The show was sold out and it was the best possible start we could get. All the bands got an amazing feedback and everyone had a blast that evening. Next day we played Warsaw in Poland and we thought we wouldn’t get out alive!!! People started getting nuts, when the intro started. It was unbelievable!!! It was our first time there, but we felt like home. There were amazing shows also in Prague, in Bratislava, in Augsburg, in Münster...I really can’t mention any bad show. The Resistance Tour was some really cool experience for us! We played Dresden, Essen and Brussels. In Brussels we arrived too late and could just play 3 songs...that was quite disappointing, but also our fault. The shows in Dresden and Essen were amazing! I think the package for this tour was quite good. Almost everyone could see a band that he would like.

A cliché question but did the release of ‘Antigone’ through Century Media open new doors for the band?
I think that more people from the “metal-scene” gave us a try. People, who usually don’t get in touch with labels like Lifeforce Records. Century Media is well-known within that scene and so some people might think that stuff that was released by CM has to be good...hehe. I think we got more attention from people that didn’t know us before.

I have spotted the video clip of ‘The Weapon They Fear’ on MTV a few times through ‘Rockzone’. Any idea if it gets played on ‘Headbanger’s Ball’ in the States? Did you enjoy doing the video and was it the first official clip?
I don’t know if it’s on Headbanger’s Ball there, but I know that some TV stations over there play the clip from time to time. That’s what people from the US told me. To do the video was a pain in the ass in my opinion...at least whenever we had to perform the song again and again in front of the camera. Doing it “playback” really sucks. It felt so strange. But on the other hand, many friends came there and so, between the work, we could hang out and stuff. That was fun, but whenever we had to play, and we did that quite a lot, it was more like work. Anyway, I don’t really like the clip. Everything was planned in another way. We wanted to do a live-clip during a show. Everything went well: lots of people, everyone was going nuts. It couldn’t have been better, until someone hitted one of the cameras. So we couldn’t use most of the stuff that was filmed this evening and we had to do it they it came out. Not really satisfying.

On the musical aspect, what bands or musicians have influenced Heaven Shall Burn? Did the glory days of the German hardcore in the nineties with bands like Ryker’s have an impact on you to start your own band?
When we started, we were listening to bands like Earth Crisis, Integrity, Paradise Lost, Bolt Thrower, Ringworm, Dismember and so on. I can’t really tell how much these bands influenced us in the beginning, but that was the stuff we had been listening to during that time. In the beginning we couldn’t barely hold our instrument...hahaha. So we just played some music that you can’t really describe...hehe. But I think the Ryker’s never had been an influence to HSB. One of our guitar players liked them, but he just joined HSB in 1998, after the first MCD was done.

What do you think about the German metal scene of today? More specifically the hardcore and death metal scene.
I think that there are lots of great bands. Bands like Fear My Thoughts, Caliban, Destiny, Maroon, Deadsoil, Zero Mentality, Fall Of Serenity, Black Friday ’29, Settle The Score, Dew-Scented, End Of Days, Teamkiller, Final Prayer. I’m sure that I forgot some, but you can see that there are a lot. I think it’s just getting better and more bands are also appreciated abroad nowadays. There are lots of bands, helping each other out, which is a great thing.

Would you mind telling more about the general lyrical concept on ‘Antigone.’ What are the main subjects that were integrated in the texts?
Maik, our Guitar player, is responsible for the lyrics. But I’ll try to describe the lyrics as good as possible;) Like on all of our releases we have different kinds of lyrics. Some are telling stories of people or historical things and some try to express some personal thoughts. Our main goal is to make the people think about the lyrics. We don’t wanna tell them what is wrong and what is right. It’s enough if they start to use their heads. On “Antigone” we had the song “Tree Of Freedom”, which is dealing with the life and the fight of Nelson Mandela. Another song, “The Weapon They Fear”, is talking about Victor Jara. Jara was a Chilean singer and actor and he got killed by the troops of General Pinochet. That are just two examples. The title of our CD was inspired by the Greek drama “Antigone” in which Antigone is fighting for her beliefs and convictions. She’s acting against the rules of her king, King Creon. So we use Antigone as some kind of a metaphor for freedom fighters. People like Salvador Allende, Victor Jara, Nelson Mandela, Sophie Scholl... But that’s some kind of a concept that we had on our previous releases already. So you can’t really say that there was some special concept just for the album “Antigone”. If there’s any concept, then it is for HSB, not just for some certain release. At least that’s what I think.

On the album ‘Whatever It May Take’ there are some references to ‘Salvador Allende’. Could you specifically tell me something more about that if you don’t mind. Does politics play an important part of your life or for the other band members?
Politics play an important role in everyone’s life. I mean...it can’t be different. It’s just the matter if you care or if you don’t care. Politics will be always there and will always influence your life. Well, Salvador Allende was the former president of Chile. In 1973 there was this military coup that was supported by the CIA and Allende got killed by the militaries. After that military coup, a fascist dictatorship was built in Chile and thousands of people got killed or just disappeared within the next 16 years. With the words, printed in the booklet of “Whatever It May Take”, we wanted to remind people about what happened. Unfortunately not that many people seem to care about what happened and what is still happening in the world that is surrounding us. We want them to get interested in such things. If people forget about what happened, things will always stay the same and no one will ever learn from past mistakes or tragedies! Chile is just one example. You just have to look to countries like Brazil or Argentina...same story there. Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru...and we’re still only talking about Latin America. I don’t even wanna start with Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Vietnam, Cambodia...the list wouldn’t end. I think everyone should try to get information about certain things. It’s not that we’re super-political people, but we also try not to be ignorant.

You have toured South America last year, how was that? Any cool touring stories?
We played Chile and Brazil in 2004. In 2002 there was our first time in Brazil. We always had a blast and were overwhelmed by the warm welcome we got. People there are really enthusiastic and, what is something really inspiring, they care!!! The first time we went to Brazil we already saw that the scene there is way more political than here in Europe. Even if I don’t share all the views that some activists have, it’s good to see people getting involved in politics, human rights, animal rights etc... It was a bit strange to us, when people did political speeches between the bands. And the most impressive thing was, that people were staying inside the venue!!! I mean, just imagine that here in Europe!?! They were listening to the speeches and also discussing things. It’s not just about the music there and that was something really inspiring. I think that’s something you won’t ever have at bigger shows in Europe. As I said before, I’m also not a super-political person and I also get annoyed by some politically correct dumbasses, but I think that the scenes in Europe suffer from a lack of politically awareness.

The band also played ‘Wacken Open Air’ and ‘Summer Breeze’ in 2003. Was it the first time on such big festivals and did you consider it to be an honour?
Yeah, definitely!!! It was an big honour to play there. We also already played the ‘With Full Force’ twice, which was even more exciting to us! We had been visiting this festival for some years already and we were standing in front of that huge stage...so many times, watching our favourite bands playing there. You know...and one day we were also invited to play exactly the same stage. It was more than a dream come true. We will always prefer to play smaller shows, because they usually get much more intense, but playing these big festivals made us really proud. It was something we never expected...actually we didn’t even dream of that before...haha.

Correct me if I am wrong but most of the band members are still students. How difficult is it to combine both occupations?
The band is just our hobby, although it takes lots of time. We can’t tour as much as other bands, but that’s also something we never really wanted. We’re happy when we can do short trips to distant places, play there and meet old and new friends. Of course we’ll try to tour more in the future, but the jobs and the studies are our main priority. You won’t ever get rich with this kind of music one hand. On the other hand we don’t wanna let the band become our daily job. It should be fun in first place and not an obligation.

The wave of bands from the United States that play ‘metalcore’ with European influences has just increased over the last few years. Do you follow those bands at all and what are your opinions on their increasing popularity?
At the moment I don’t really pay attention to all the new releases. I think that there are lots of really good and outstanding bands, but I’m getting a bit bored with too many average ones. Sometimes you can really hear, who plays the music, because it comes from the heart and which bands are playing the music just because it’s kinda popular now. I think that bands like Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, Trivium and many other bands are sounding quite original... Of course there are lots more, but these are the first ones that came into my mind. Well, what can I say??? Time will tell...hahaha

What are the plans for the future? Have you written some new material and when could we expect the next release?
We’re done with the stuff for our next split CD with Caliban. It will be out in July I guess. Soon we’ll also start to write new songs for our next full-length, but there’s no real release date yet. We’ll try to tour the US at last and do shows all over Europe all the time.

Is there a chance of seeing Heaven Shall Burn on some summer festivals this year?
Yeah, we’re going to play the Up From The Ground, the Pressure Festival and maybe the Ieper Fest. We’ll see...I guess there will be even more.

Any final words for the readers and your fans?
Thanks for all the support until now!!! There will be the split with Caliban coming and the next full-length in 2006 I guess. So watch out!

Thanks a lot for the interview!
Thank you for the interest in HSB!!! Take care. Matthias xxx

Links of interest:

Heaven Shall Burn
Century Media