OVERDRIVE caught up with vocalist Andy B. Franck of German Power Metal purveyors Almanac on their day off in Stuttgart. We ease Franck into a relaxing day chatting about the merits of German and Australian beer – and hinting at Franck’s desire to sample some of the Aussie stuff! – before moving onto the band’s new release, Kingslayer.
“I think the album is much heavier,” Franck begins, comparing it to the band’s previous release, Tsar. “I think that is just because of the live experience. We now have over two years of constant touring and playing festivals. But at the end I think it was a normal kind of process, because everything started with Victor [Smolski] writing the songs, and he had no idea how we would like the songs on Tsar, or how we would work on it, and so on. But I think especially during the last tour, we talked a lot about the next album and how it should sound. And yes, I’m the Metalhead in the band, you know! So the rest of the guys are not so into harder stuff, so it was up to me to kick their asses,” he laughs, and it soon becomes apparent that Franck’s laugh comes very readily. “And this is what came out,” he continues, “So we talked about having such heavy stuff on the album, and I think it works very well. The reactions so far are overwhelming, and we’re really happy with the result.”
There were some adjustments for Franck when it came to writing for Almanac. “It’s a little bit different,” he says. “As you know from my other band Brainstorm, we normally arrange most of the things together, so it was brand new for me to be in a band like Almanac where we have just one song writer, who is Victor. He writes the entire songs, then when everything’s written, then he comes up and tells you, ‘This is the song. Let’s talk about the lyrics, let’s talk about the vocal lines and everything else.’ On one hand it makes it easier, on the other hand it makes it a little bit more difficult because I’m not used to having a finished product in front of me.” He gives a short laugh. “And then to start working with that, I first had to learn how to deal with it. But it works out in the end, it’s amazing, it’s really good. Especially now with the second album, Victor now knows exactly how our voices work, and what we like to sing, how we like to sound, and so on. This works out very well at the end. So Victor writes the songs, then we write the lyrics and vocal lines for it. On the first album, Victor asked me to write all the lyrics! But I said no, because I didn’t have the time for that,” he says with a wry laugh. “So I decided to share the lyrics with David [Readman], and I think it’s also very, very important not to write the lyrics all by myself, because for a singer it’s always important to sing about something you have written, so you have feelings for that. That makes it much easier for you to sing it in a very good way in the studio and in your live performance. So this is how Almanac works!” he chuckles. “Victor writes, and we write the lyrics for him.”
Tsar is an interesting album in that it tackles Russian history as its subject matter. As Franck explains, “That was basically Victor’s idea. He just asked us what we think about writing songs about the Tsar, Ivan the Terrible and so on, and I was a little bit sceptical at the first moment, but then he said, ‘Nobody has ever written anything about this guy in the Metal genre.’ We have so many songs about Egypt or Scotland, about Vikings, whatever. But as far as we know, there was no band around who has ever written anything about the Tsar, no popular band in Europe. I’m not a fan of concept albums,” he says frankly, “but I was sure that if you do write lyrics for two or three songs that are all about one thing, that’s okay, that’s fine. The idea was unexpected at that point, but it turned out very well at the end, and the fans loved it.
Kingslayer is a different beast, and Franck laughs deeply at the mention of his being a Game of Thrones fan. “Yeah, the record company didn’t want us to call the album Jamie Lannister, so we called it Kingslayer,” he continues laughing. “It was just amazing. To be very honest, we had a show, I think I remember last December, and I told them that I think because of some ideas I had in my head about the lyrics, about kings getting killed by their brothers, by their sisters, or their wives or whatever, everything’s on a historical basis; and I told them that I think the word ‘kingslayer’ expresses it the best. That was just an idea, I did not want to call the album Kingslayer, but when I said the word ‘kingslayer,’ they all looked at me like, ‘Oh, that’s a good name! That is a GOOD name.’ And I said, ‘Uh, hey, sorry? It’s just what the lyrics should be all about. No concept album, but more or less, here and there, some lyrics about kings got killed. Okay, so kingslayer could fit?’ ‘But Kingslayer’s amazing!’ ‘Ah, it’s Game of Thrones, maybe. So people may think about that.’” Frank deepens his voice to get across the response of the band as they press for the title. “‘Who cares, Andy?! Sounds good. That’s it.’ So that was the name. That was the birth of the album title. Now, that was something I did not expect in that moment!” he laughs again. “I just threw it in, and that’s what came out. The baby’s called Kingslayer now, and I was like, ‘Okay!’ But it fits in the end, it works. Sometimes you think about words or titles for at least a year and nothing happens, and everybody says, ‘Nah, that’s bad, that’s bad, that’s bad,’ and then you say one word and everybody says, ‘Yeah, that’s it!’”
Almanac’s next tour is in Russia, and Franck has a lot to look forward to, though there are one or two elements he’s wary of. “We’ve been there once, in Moscow. The thing I always expect from shows in Russia is that it’s very cold. Wherever you go outside, it’s fucking cold. That’s the first thing I’m thinking about. But the cool thing is that the fans over there, you can feel that not every band and tour comes to Russia. So they’re a little bit more hungry probably than some of the, for example German fans are, because every tour takes place in Germany, every band, every tour, so the fans can decide every night, ‘Am I going to Nightwish? Am I going to Korn? Am I going to In Flames?’ or whatever. So I think in the case of Russia, it’s more or less once a week, or twice a month, and so when you play there, from the first second on they’re extremely enthusiastic, and this is what I expect from the show, especially in St. Petersburg because we’ve never been there. So we’ll see what will happen. But I’m a little bit afraid of the trip, travelling from St. Petersburg to Moscow because we’re travelling by train, a very old one. But this is something you,” he laughs wryly in anticipation, “you should have seen in your life, so I’ve been told! A very, very old train, travelling from St. Petersburg to Moscow, about eight hours or so. Okay, let’s see what will happen!”
Speaking of the cold, Franck also has tales about the ‘Self-Blinded Eyes’ video. “Oh,” he laments, “Talking about cold weather again,” with a self-deprecating laugh. “That was in a castle, and it was really, extremely cold. None of the recordings did happen in a room. Everything got recorded outside. The day started, it was already cold. And the funny thing is, right at the moment when we got finished and the cameras went off, at that moment it started snowing, and I was really like, ‘Oh, god!’ And then you’re stood there, somewhere on the castle, no jacket nearby, nothing. I survived it, that was it. That was the best thing,” he finishes with his ubiquitous laugh.
“Of course, we would like to say thanks so much to all the readers for their support over the last couple of months and years, for their support on Tsar,” he wraps up. “So enjoy, and give Kingslayer a listen. Enjoy it and if you like it, we hope so, then bang your head to it and open a bottle of beer!”
PREORDER YOUR COPY OF ALMANAC’S KINGSLAYER FROM NUCLEAR BLAST HERE!