The witch is back with a vengeance! Spanish heavy metal sorcerers Witchtower return with their third full-length, Witches’ Domain. As we discuss during this interview, on this album we will find the darkest and heaviest version of Witchtower so far, adding some new influences without ruining their personal essence at all. German label Unsilent Tomb Records have released this masterpiece that will be one of the highlights of the heavy metal scene this year. The gates are open, it’s time to enter the Witches’ Castle… if you dare!
Hi Víctor! Thanks for answering this interview. We are here to talk about the new Witchtower album, Witches’ Domain. How would you introduce this album, and which are the main differences between this record and your previous, critically acclaimed album, Hammer of Witches?
Hi! It’s my pleasure to reply to this interview, I usually read Mugre in my bathroom time haha [Editor’s Note: Mugre is Eduardo Fulci’s extreme metal fanzine]. Well, with a little listen I think the main difference is the sound. Hammer of Witches sounds more like in the 70s, and Witches’ Domain takes place more in the 80s. On the other hand, the previous album has more classy songs, it isn’t as heavy as this last one. Witches’ Domain is heavier and darker. More speedy songs too.
That’s right! I also feel like there are faster patterns on many songs of this album. Did you also feel like you were stepping on the gas a little bit?
Absolutely! I love fast songs, and I decided to put a bunch of speedy stuff under the album.
You just said this album is darker, I have indeed noticed a wider use of darker chords and arrangements on this album, helping the songs to achieve an atmosphere of horror and witchcraft. Was this something deliberate? Were you inspired by any particular influences or bands at the time of writing this kind of eerie riffs and details?
From a solid heavy metal basis, I decided to include some chords or arrangements from extreme metal as you said. I am happy that you saw this! I am not an expert in black metal or death metal, but I like it very much. I usually go to extreme metal shows. So, this time I mixed some stuff that you may recognize from bands like Darkthrone or Death.
Spain has many old tales of witchcraft and inquisitorial trials. One of the most infamous cases would be Zugarramurdi, which you wrote a song about on this new album. Which other stories have inspired you or had an impact on you? Most of these cases took place in Northern Spain, but are there any old stories you’d like to share about your native land Andalusia, in Southern Spain?
Yes, we have a lot of old strange stories there. Maybe I should write something related to it on future songs. People might like to know! One of the most famous “ghosts stories” in my region deals with the Bélmez Faces. Located in Bélmez de la Moraleda (Jaén), a small village which has a very strange story: María, her owner, started to see a small stain in the floor of her living room. Little by little this stain took form and became a Byzantine soldier’s face. Shortly after that, a lot of faces appeared in the rest of the house, especially in the ground. Some people say that the faces appeared because of the occult powers of María.
The title song of the album, which also happens to be the closing track, starts with a variation of the main riff of “Acid Witch (Forever Burn in Hell)”, the outro of your previous album Hammer of Witches. Great way to connect both works, and a nice gesture to your fans. It’s a fully instrumental song clocking at 7:38 minutes, which is quite risky but it works, as it’s formed by different passages with plenty of solos and melodies. I’d dare to say it’s your most complex composition so far. How was the creation of this amazing piece?
First of all, thank you so much for your kind words! Without a doubt it is a complex song. As you heard in the other previous instrumental songs from Witchtower, that magical triplet arpeggio is always there. It is a way to connect all the instrumental songs, it is a way to send a message from the bottom of the Witches’ Castle to the people. They are always here. The creation process was simple, or not. I remember that I had two or three riffs for the main idea. But finally I decided to choose the best option. The rest of the song, it was like building a block of flats. Speedy corridors, long and roomy flats, small and oppressive corners… The final result was this instrumental song, I am very proud of it! I liked this question very much, you are a great observer!
“Night of the Witch” is a very catchy song with a sing-along chorus, leaning towards the more rock ‘n’ roll side of Witchtower, bringing to my mind those very early NWOBHM 7”s from, let’s say, 1979-1980. But which were your influences for this particular song, and what did you have in mind at the time of writing it?
Well, “Night of the Witch” is a story that talks about a witches’ party, when you go out on a Friday night for example, maybe you could meet them. They are among us, we have to assume the risk. They used to be ugly in the past, but nowadays they are very beautiful women. The common thing has always been her magical powers to enchant men. As you see it is quite funny to talk about women this way, but let’s talk about music. As you said before, this song is deeply into NWOBHM, but I took other influences like UFO, or early Judas Priest. There are basically no tempo changes and there are some variations on the double guitar melody but it isn’t a progressive rock song as you can hear.
Back to NWOBHM, there are a few obvious nods to Maiden songs such as “The Ides of March” or “Phantom of the Opera” in some intros and bridges one can easily see as love letters to the legendary British band, and overall, there’s a strong influence of some of the best NWOBHM such as Angel Witch, Diamond Head, Tygers of Pang Tang and of course Iron Maiden. What makes NWOBHM such a special movement for you? Which would be some of your favourite obscure releases? And what about the bigger acts?
Well, NWOBHM is the most influential music for Witchtower, indeed! So, as you said before, you can see the Maiden influence on several parts. But to be honest, I find the raw and primitive sound of NWOBHM as a very attractive thing for me. Man, it is the best way to listen to a real band. One day I tried to put this late 70s and early 80s sound in the 2010s with digital resources, and I did Return to the Witches’ Castle. No tape mixer, no real valve amps, only digital resources, but I did it! About the obscure releases, Dark Star, White Spirit as well as all the old demos by Jaguar, Satan, Blitzkrieg, Crucifixion, Fist… And, on the other hand, my main influences for Witchtower have always been the first release of Angel Witch, the s/t of Iron Maiden, and Lightning to the Nations by Diamond Head.
Besides the dark and occult imagery surrounding witchcraft in the Middle Ages, you often use it as a way to speak out against dogmas, lies and injustice. We can find these themes at “The Theosophist” or at “The World is Upside Down”, even if that one doesn’t seem strictly related to witchcraft. Do you think these old tales can still mean something in nowadays world? Should we be more afraid of the dark witches or the inquisitors and witchfinders?
Absolutely indeed, we can find some occult dogmas nowadays, but it isn’t easy to see, they won’t appear in an easy way. “The Theosophist” is a song that talks about Helena Blavatsky, who was a woman that founded Theosophy, an occult dogma which says that “There’s no religion higher than truth”. This dogma was accused as a nazi way of thinking too. About “The World is Upside Down”, it may have the most upbeat lyrics on the album, it is a positive message for some people. Recently a lot of people close to me have suffered from different mental illnesses and I wanted to express my support to them in these lyrics.
I love the album artwork, painted by Lena Richter, who had already caught my attention with her great work for Vultures Vengeance. Is it how you got to know her too? How was the concept of this artwork developed, did you give her some directions or did you just let her work with the band’s concept and sound? What can you tell us about it?
Well, I have worked in the general concept for many years before the release with my girlfriend Ana, we decided the colors, some elements of the main structure, and some details. But Lena changed a few things, some colors… and the final result was incredible. The fact is, she never listened to the album before, yet she caught the main idea perfectly. I recommend her art to everybody (@lenaritchter_art).
You have recently had some major line-up changes. What can you tell us about this new line-up? I know the members are now spread between different locations. How do you manage to rehearse and work on the songs together, particularly for live shows?
To make a “real” rehearsal is complicated because, as you said, Adam (drummer), Miguel (bassist) and Antonio (lead guitarist) are all in different locations. We usually do the rehearsal sessions at home, we play the setlist with backing tracks, using Cubase. But we try to make a “real” rehearsal every month, like two rehearsals on a weekend, for instance.
You have been confirmed for the 2020 edition of Muskelrock in Sweden. I’m sure this will be a great chance to introduce the new album to a worldwide audience. What can you tell us about it?
It is a great responsibility, to play out of Spain in important festivals is always a great opportunity for us and we want to try our best in the best tradition.
You are also part of Toca Madera, a heavy metal band with Spanish lyrics where other Witchtower members have been involved too, that takes me back to the glorious days of Chapa Discos and all the 80s Spanish heavy metal. What can you tell us about this band, and how was it formed? Any recent news?
Toca Madera is a project started in 2014 by José Vico (Halley, Yunque) and me, we only played Spanish heavy metal covers in the beginning, in an acoustic way. But in 2016 we decided to forget about the acoustic guitars and play the songs in their real version with thunder & lightning, we contacted José Jiménez (Drackma, Beyond the Forest, Witchtower) and Antonio J. Morillas (Witchtower) and we started to play more cover songs but with electric guitars, you know. I decided to make 5 songs for an EP in 2018 and the rest of the band accepted the idea and the songs with a lot of enthusiasm. The final result before the first mixes was very impressive, we worked with Eduardo Martínez side by side on the production, mix and mastering, because we had the main idea for the EP clear. We want to record another one this summer! I have some new ideas to make 4-5 new songs.
That’s all for now, thanks a lot and congratulations for such a great album. Feel free to add anything else.
Thanks so much for this interview, I enjoyed it a lot! I really like to make them this way. Don’t miss to read Ride Into Glory guys, underground is the only way to enjoy metal, see you in festivals, or heavy metal parties!