The Beast in Black album is out and it’s a corker. Anton Kabanen has risen from the ashes of his time in Battle Beast and come back stronger than ever. We grabbed the opportunity to talk to him about his new band, his new album, his current tour and, of course, manga.
We asked him how he felt about the new album in relation to his past, was this a next logic step or more of an evolution towards his musical goals? He told us that ‘Battle Beast was my first ever band, and good things and bad things happened but it feels like they had to happen, and this now feels like the evolution of the beast’. He says his vision is ‘a real heavy metal band, where we can honestly call ourselves heavy metal, and nothing else, and everyone is on the same page with that’. With Battle Beast he felt ‘some people didn’t like heavy metal that much, there were differences in what we want to be’. He goes on, ‘when it comes to heavy metal, you can’t fake it and it feels good with Beast in Black when we are together on stage, it’s a totally different feel and everyone feels it the same way’. He said that from their first shows with WASP it ‘didn’t feel like this with the previous band, and now the band can’t wait to get into the studio to create a second album’. He says the band is ‘very hungry’.
Having listened to Beast in Black for some time, we’ve been very impressed by the skills of Yannis Popadopalous, the singer, so we asked him if he consciously pushed Yannis or wrote challenging material to see how far he could go. ‘I think so’, he says, ‘we both knew in the studio that this was something he’s not really done before. It was next level stuff for him. We are both very happy with the result. I clearly remember us in the studio and he was getting goose bumps from his own takes and not being able to believe what he had done’. Furthermore, ‘we really tried to use all his potential in the context of these songs. This album doesn’t show everything he can do, in my opinion, but it does show he was able to deliver everything that these songs required. His voice has such a range, there’s growling on the album and there’s parts where he sounds like a woman.’
We went on to discuss ‘Crazy, Mad, Insane’, a standout track on the album that has a lot of vocal effects and drum machine sounds and verges on being synth pop. Knowing how accepting the metal community is of different styles and sounds, we asked Anton if he deliberately pushed this song in that direction, and if he was looking to test boundaries, or if this is just how that song turned out. ‘In 2014, I wrote ‘Touch in the Night’ for Battle Beast. I always loved that sort of style, but I had never integrated it so clearly in to heavy metal. I write a lot of music, orchestral stuff, synth-pop stuff, I’ve written that stuff for years. I’d never had an outlet for this sort of style and I decided to write a synth-pop song and put it on the Battle Beast album. While some people in the metal community hated ‘Touch in the Night’ at the time, in the big picture, it became successful. It is still to this day the most successful music lyric video of a song I’ve written, so I decided something must have gone right, so I decided to try something like that again. I genuinely love that sort of style and it feels natural when you use your influences in what you’re doing as a songwriter’. He went on to talk about the freedom that heavy metal gives an artist to write whatever they like, saying ‘it’s only in heavy metal that you can go from a silent whisper to a deafening roar. No pop artist can do that. In metal you can explore those boundaries and not lose yourself, not lose being a heavy metal band, which we are’. We agreed that, while heavy metal is always going to include distorted guitars and loud verses that heavy metal is always ‘supposed to keep it interesting’.
Inevitably, we asked about the ties between the band and anime. We’ve seen him comparing the use of the mascot to Eddie in Iron Maiden, and we’d already planned on asking if there was an intention to move this aspect to the forefront in terms of album covers and t-shirts, and the degree to which this is a focal point for Beast in Black. Anton replies ‘Berzerk has always been part of my song writing, since 2006, and with this album, it’s just a continuum. But when it comes to our own character, this beast, it’s part of my vision since 2007 or 2008. I think it works really well for what we have going on, and, to the Berzerk thing, it’s an endless source of inspiration for me. Being a fanboy of that, it feels great to see people getting excited over songs that are Berzerk-related. When people share the passion I have, it’s very rewarding when I see comments where people understand what the song is about and we share that fandom.’. We agreed that part of heavy metal is feeling free to sing about things you’re passionate about. He explained that he loves anime because ‘there’s so many layers to those stories that I can relate to myself personally. There are characters and events there that many people can relate to, and that’s the sign of a good story. You start to care about the characters as if they are real. When I write a song about a movie, or a group, I have to care about it. You have to do it with a full heart when it comes to art, and what’s the point in doing something half way? If you’re an artist, you have to put yourself into it 100%. I don’t want to do anything else but music in my short time here on earth, and there’s so much music that I want to write. Not just for Beast in Black, but I want to do other projects. Live your life wisely while you are on this earth.’
Inevitably, we asked about our odds of seeing Beast in Black in the future, either in Australia, or for those of us making our way to European festivals in 2018. Anton assures us that ‘for sure, Beast in Black will come to Australia, but I’m not sure if it will happen next year. Sooner or later, we are looking forward to coming down. I am always excited to come to new places and I have never been there’. We went on to discuss Damnations Day, a Melbourne progressive metal band he enjoyed touring with, and what a great live band Airbourne are.
From there we moved to the breakdown of the tour that had recently started with Beast in Black and WASP. ‘The tour was rather short for us, WASP was causing a lot of problems for us. So, it had to be cancelled. We wanted to continue it but it was impossible. We have another tour coming up, we absolutely have to have a normal tour after an album release. In December we are doing some gigs in Germany. It’s not a European tour but it’s great we could get that at short notice. Germany has a great market for metal’ From there we talked about how great Manowar is, and their final shows happening in Germany in December this year, he has enjoyed seeing them twice.
Overall, it was a great pleasure to talk to Anton, an obviously enthusiastic fan of heavy metal and justifiably proud to be promoting a terrific album. We can’t wait to hear what they do next.
Get your copy of Beserker here.