An Interview with Chris Maudling, Guitarist of Sheffield's Premier True Barbarian Metal Band,


by Tyrian Xort on 5th April, 2006

Bal-Sagoth have been creating their unmistakable brand of “True Barbarian Metal” for going on 13 years now & after countless prestigious gigs, tours & albums the band don’t look to be slowing down any.

Or'right Chris, Reflecting on your career with ‘Sagoth how do you feel about being one of the few major label bands that throughout have remained true to their relatively underground fan base?

It is with a sense of pride that we can say we never sold out, but to be honest I really couldn't have seen us continuing Bal-Sagoth any other way. It is really strange but we now have released 6 albums and they are totally different form one another in terms of speed, production, song structure and aggression but somehow you can tell its a Sagoth record straight away. That extra factor that is the ingredient that makes Sagoth stand out from the rest and maintains that we will always be true to the underground fan base. I wouldn't want it any otherway.

Bands that start off underground and then suddenly change direction to suit the majority public, just make me sick. All self respect, in my opinion, is flushed away as soon as that happens.

‘Sagoth have just released their 6th album “The Chthonic Chronicles”. With magazine reviewers raving about the new album do you think the band achieved all they wished with this release & how does it differ to you personally from your past releases?

Yeah,its not like we didn't have enough time to think about this one haha, yes we are generally pleased with the way TCC turned out, we managed to really get the essence of what the band is really all about. That isn't to say though (that)I still think there is more to come as I look at this album as a turning point to a darker more sinister sounding future for Bal-Sagoth. This one differs from previous recordings in the fact that it is more of a brutal metal sounding affair which is relentless in its delivery. There are not the normal pauses for breath kinda moments during the songs like on some of the other albums, they just kick ass from beginning to end. I personally really like it that way.

The album was recorded in Jonny (‘Sagoth keyboard player)’s studio “Wayland’s Forge”. Did this, in your opinion, make the whole process easier & more relaxed than previous studio releases?

Yes, definitely and also the ideas are converted 100% accurately the way we wanted them to sound. There is no other outside input from studio producers etc to effect any portion of the recording. What you hear is exactly how we wanted it laid down and if it didn't sound correct we just kept going until it was right.

Unless you have a very large recording budget this normally is not possible to do due to the time factor, you are constantly aware the clock is ticking away and sometimes you have to accept something which is only 80% what you hoped to achieve.

I know I keep asking about this, but are there any plans for a European tour to promote the album, also I’ve noticed a large amount of fans of ‘Sagoth appearing from the U.S at present. Any plans of a tour over there in the future?

Yes, we are currently working out shows at the moment, a few festivals have been thrown our way already and we are in negotiations over them. A European tour is also on the cards but we a currently holding out for headlining shows rather that the usual support slots. With the US it really is a matter to make it worthwhile, for fans and ourselves, flying out there and playing some high priority shows rather than just lunging at the first thing that we happen upon. I really don’t mind playing support slots if the tour is has been worked out correctly in the US, but it is somewhere we really want to go for sure.

Before the recording of “Chthonic Chronicles” long time drummer Dave Mackintosh left Bal-Sagoth to join power-metallers Dragonforce & Ex-Sermon Of Hypocrisy drummer Dan “Storm” Mullins was brought in to occupy the drumthrone. Listening to the drumming on this new album it seems to me the addition of “Storm” has intensified ‘Sagoth’s sound, with the tracks on “Chthonic…” being faster, heavier & if possible, sounding twice as complex as those on the last offering (“Atlantis Ascendant”.) How, since the addition of “Storm”, do you feel about ‘Sagoths material? Has it intensified at all from your aspect as a part of the band?

When Dave left in 2004, I personally was very disappointed. I felt he had really risen to the challenge and improved ten fold, I was very confident knowing Dave was on the kit as he just never missed a beat literally. Dave’s background was old school thrash and rock but that added something I think to our extreme nature.

Dan is a totally different drummer to Dave. Dan grew up with Death and Black Metal and tailored his drumming style to those type of bands. To be honest he's the kind of drummer I always wanted for Sagoth. We don’t have to compromise anything, it’s like can you play it this way Dan, can you play it faster, blast for longer and he can just do it no problem. He has definitely injected a more extreme manner into our recordings. Even his fills are aggressive in nature, the guy is just totally on our wavelength and knows exactly what we want. I actually met Dan during the recording of A Black Moon..... when he was only sixteen years old. He was a fan for a long time anyways turning up when we recording in his home town of Dewsbury. I would say he has a lot to do with the way the new album sounds definitely.

…Bloody gay Dragonforce! (Haha).

Lol, not my cup of tea at all. I just don’t get it. I would like to hear some decent riffing rather than single strummed rhythm sections followed by mental solos. Technically as musicians they are brilliant but for me, I haven't heard a stand out song yet, you can't learn song writing. I don't go for power metal at all, but having said all that it seems to be working for them so good luck to them.

Musically, I believe ‘Sagoth has some of the most creative guitar & keyboard work in the genre of “Extreme Metal”. What have been your influences over the years while writing music for ‘Sagoth?

Well for me personally, I was very much a Metallica and Slayer fan early on. Hetfields down picking on the earlier albums really inspired me to pick up a guitar in the first place. Slayer just showed precision fast guitar playing to its best, so I really took a lot of my early playing from their styles.

Once Death Metal came to the forefront I really took inspiration from bands like Deicide, Napalm Death and Morbid Angel I really like the brutal feel their riffs had. Then along came Dark Throne, Enslaved and Emperor. Again I was amazed at this new sounding metal they were doing and the fact these guitarist were really creating a dark atmosphere. The keyboards in Emperor sold me to the fact that you could add another element in there and create something quite unique but still extreme.

Once you throw in Classical composers like Holst, Wagner, Grieg and some great Movie soundtrack composers like John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer etc Suddenly the sky became the limit and we settled on our own unique sound.

What are your thoughts regarding the current extreme metal “scene”, if that is indeed the correct term to use, in the UK? How does it differ, if at all, from when you first started out with ‘Sagoth?

The extreme scene back in the late 80's and early 90's was really an exciting time for metal music. Nothing like it had ever been heard before and you really had to set about unearthing a lot of this stuff as it was not readily available. You really felt like you were part of a very extreme metal underground fraternity. You might get the odd Death Metal song played by John Peel very late at night but for the most part it was down to tape trading, letter writing and contacts in Zines.

It only started to become known when magazines like 'Thrash and Burn' and Terrorizer came out. Kerrang and Metal Hammer largely ignored it. Nobody had the internet, PCs were only for Businesses - the only way to see these bands was to catch ‘em live at small venues. I only got to hear what was going on by friends lending me tapes and vice versa.

Byron was heavily into this scene and used to bring tapes and stuff to rehearsals. Jonny was also into the Death Metal scene and scoured obscure radio to find it. This is why it was underground, it quite simply was literally and hardly anyone knew about it.

Now, with the advent of the internet and commercial success of Death/Black metal I am loathed to call it that anymore. It’s easy to get the stuff through mp3s, major labels became interested and the whole scene got saturated with sub standard bands wanting to make a quick buck. Suddenly everyone knew about extreme metal. I think it’s a lot harder to start a new extreme band today as you are constantly chasing the efforts of decade old bands. Those that do make it truly deserve to be there. The plus side of this new underground, which really is down to the net, is that you can almost get established with no record deal so almost bypassing the parasitic nature of the business men.

Cheers for answering these questions mate, any final words to the fans of Bal-Sagoth & those reading this ‘ere interview?

Yes thanks for your Interview Tyrian and many Hails and Greetings to our loyal supporters over the years, we will see you all shortly for our live expeditions. READY YOURSELVES FOR BATTLE!!!