The all-female Swiss heavy metal band Burning Witches is preparing to release their third studio album titled “Dance With the Devil” on March 6th. With new vocalist Laura in tow, the album promises to bring the strength and power of 80’s metal with more flair than ever before. Pulling from legendary influences such as Iron Maiden and Manowar, Burning Witches bring energy and speed to an old-school style that has withstood the test of time.
Inspired by the famous gathering of witches in the Middle Ages known as Walpurgis Night, the band has used “Dance With the Devil” as an outlet for not just their enthusiasm for metal, but as a channel for fun-loving self-expression. The band has become known for their positive energy, witchy charm, and unmistakably inspired wardrobe of leather and studs. In that same vein, “Dance With the Devil” draws on the group’s natural synergy to make music that pays tribute to the roots of heavy and power metal while demonstrating modern production capability and artistic vision.
With a supporting tour for Ross the Boss coming up for the band in April, there’s no lack of excitement for Burning Witches heading into 2020. Sonic Perspectives’ contributor Samantha Buckman spoke with Laura about inspiration for the album, what adjustment has been like as the new member of the band, and what is upcoming for Burning Witches in the near future. Read their conversation below!
You’re called a heavy metal band, but how would you personally describe the sound of the new album to someone that’s never heard of you before?
It is heavy metal, and it’s eighties, so you can expect everything melodic and eighties mostly. Most people know Iron Maiden, right? And most people know Metallica. I think it’s a mix: I would say it’s in between Iron Maiden and Metallica probably.
Would you say those bands are personally a source of inspiration for your music?
Iron Maiden definitely, Metallica isn’t really an inspiration. I think it’s more like Kreator, for example, if you go into the thrash metal bands. Of course, they were a big influence on the eighties, so I think they were an influence on us, but not directly.
In this album I noticed that there is a lot of speed, this is a very fast album. How did that come about, what made this album go in that direction?
You should actually ask Romana that because she basically just wrote the songs and I was like ‘oh yeah, that’s fun, let’s work with this.’ I feel like there are a few songs that are a bit speedy, a few songs a bit thrashy maybe. To me the only speedy song is “Wings of Steel.” We thought that was a powerful pick for the first song I would be on, because we wanted it to be powerful and energetic, showing that we would go strong as a band. So that was the first song we wrote together, and after that it was coincidence for “Sea of Lies” because we really liked how the song turned out, we all liked that song.
The lyrics are also a little bit personal, some personal experience that could also be about this. There are some people in this world who are taking too much of an advantage of the weaknesses of other people, and if that gets out of control, weak people are in a position where they will take way more bullshit than people that aren’t. And it could be because you feel like you are not doing well enough in life or whatever reason, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t like those people. So that’s what the song is about.
Maybe there are some speedy songs: it wasn’t really a conscious decision anyway. There are some really basic power metal tracks on there, you have some of your classic heavy metal tracks. There’s maybe slightly more speed, and thinking about our past albums, that balance is a little more towards speed, but you could really hear the diversity on the albums. I think we have that diversity on this album; I think we didn’t really change that much if you ask me, in that aspect anyway. Maybe it’s just one song that makes it tip over the balance, but it’s still just very eighties heavy metal, all the influences we wanted to put in there are in there.
You mention diversity: there’s speed, but there’s also a lot of melody, and you as a vocalist cover a huge range in both sound and style. How do you adapt your voice to a track? Do you already have something in mind or do you come up with it as you go?
When I listen to the track, I immediately have a feeling of some things that would work very good, very well for us. I definitely had that with “Wings of Steel” immediately. It’s actually almost all of the tracks, there were just a few tracks I wasn’t really sure what to do yet, simply because the style of the tracks themselves were a little bit in between two styles I had in mind, so for me it was harder to choose. But you hear that, you hear what is being played. In this case, at least, that’s how we write: I get the track and I feel what’s possible with it. So mostly, I know up front, but sometimes I am wrong and I have to try something else.
As a vocalist, who have your main inspirations been? Who has inspired you the most?
I have tons of influences. I love the singer of Kamelot because of his control and melodic range. And also the singers of Battle Beast and Myrath. On the other hand, I like to listen to Halestorm and Symphony X. I pick a little bit of everything, and even pop, because I thought Beyoncé is phenomenal in what she could do with her voice. So I also tried to sing it, I just wanted to be able to do it. I also learned from those kinds of artists. For me, it’s a lot, to be honest.
Moving into the future, would you want a track where you get to explore a more melodic style or are you thinking that you’re just going to keep doing what we see on this album?
I don’t know. It comes as it goes, but we definitely want to keep the eighties style and the theme and everything that will be cool that fits into that. We will try, maybe, but I don’t see a lot of change coming. The thing that you can least expect is old school eighties witches and heavy metal.
It was mentioned that this album was conceptually driven, at least in part, by a famous gathering of witches in the Middle Ages. How does this feeling of witches and heavy power metal end up tying into “Dance With the Devil?”
“Dance With the Devil” is actually about Walpurgis Night, when it was believed that the veil between the spiritual world and the human world would be way thinner than normal, so it could be dangerous for the humans because the spirits would get them, so they try to make noise and get rid of them. And the witches, of course, were partying, in this case on Brocken Mountain. It’s in the Harz Mountains in Germany actually. So that’s where the legend come from, it was really believed that witches would go during that night to that Brocken’s Mountain and would dance with demons and have fun, and dance with the devil.
There was this writer, he wrote a lot about it also. He wrote some books regarding that legend and I let myself be inspired a bit by that also. Of course, it’s also about gathering and having fun, as that is one of the party nights.
You did mention that it was a bit of a party, and that is what I could see in the first music video for the title track “Dance with the Devil.” Can you talk a little bit more about how that music video came about, what it was like to film it?
It was fun! A good friend of ours is actually good with makeup, so he disguised himself as the devil, which is really cool. Then we have our camera guy, and he knew how to film that bit with the smoke and the lights, a little bit more atmospheric than just a simple room. A lot of friends helped us out actually, so the having fun with friends theme continued there. It definitely a crazy time.
I couldn’t personally be there. Of course I was there when we filmed with the band, so we filmed all the partying and the devil stuff with the dancers separately from the day that we played together because it was too difficult to match the times on the days we had off. It turned out pretty cool, I think.
I definitely want to talk about the album art for “Dance with the Devil.” It pays homage to that eighties heavy and power metal. It’s stunning: the band is larger than life, the colors are so bright. How did this album art come about, and can you talk about the artist that did it?
We totally had in mind that greatness, that larger than life image that Manowar used. We have had the same guy for all our artwork, Gyula Havancsák. He did a great job, he’s very good at this style. We just told him we wanted this eye-catching album artwork, and he made it happen.
What’s your favorite part of the album art?
That’s difficult, I just like the style that the artist has. He’s really good at using colors and perspective to make not only a nice drawing, but to give it a lot of depth. I really like that it’s almost so 3D it’s coming out of the album artwork, and that’s what I like so much about his drawing style. That’s basically what makes me love it. I think he easily could have drawn something totally different and I probably would have liked it because of that reason.
It’s kind of expected that each album now ends with a cover of a famous, heavy or power metal song. “Dance with the Devil” ends with Manowar’s “Battle Hymn.” However, what makes this track even more special about this track is the guest artists you got on it – you actually got Ross the Boss from Manowar. Can you talk a little more about that experience? Did you plan to have him or did it happen later?
We all hoped for it because Romana has Manowar as a big influence for everything she does. She already had some contact in the past with Ross the Boss and it’s really great that he wanted to do this solo, and we’re happy that this happened. We’re also touring with them now in April, and it’s going to be incredible.
With all these covers that you’re including, it definitely gives a taste of that eighties feel, but with a special Burning Witches flair. What is the intention of these cover albums? Is it just paying homage or is it trying to do some sort of reinvention for the 21st century?
We tried to make a good mixture of it, because we do not live in the eighties anymore. I think it’s really difficult to do it exactly as in the eighties, but I also think it also has the charm that it is a little bit different, because it stands out more if it is a bit diverse. So reinventing, slightly, while paying homage. There are a lot of people that like that style and older bands sometimes they already quit, sometimes they don’t make as many new albums anymore, and there are still the people that really want to hear it. So it’s just cool that we can do this. We all like the style, so we’re having fun with this. The nice thing is that we as a band can say ‘oh yeah, we make eighties heavy metal’ and pick whatever we like.
As a vocalist, do you have any challenges when it comes to singing covers?
You have to watch out a little bit that it fits for the range. Some parts are meant to be totally shit-crazy, and if it would be too low or too high, it’s not possible. You have to figure out what key to do it in, that’s most of the time not the most challenging part. It also has to be compatible with your voice, but these did not cause me a lot of trouble to make it work, so I was actually happy with the choices we made. I hope you think the same.
The songs we chose are just lots of fun because there are so many styles of vocals in those songs, so the “Darkness” from King Diamond has some very crazy stuff in there, and also if you know the previous albums from Burning Witches, we have sometimes have songs with crazy vocal stuff in there, so of course it fits the style already a little bit. So I think that it’s also a good idea to look at which kind of songs you would need for it to also fit your style a bit so it’s not too weird. That’s what we did and it worked out.
Do you have any cover songs in mind you would want to do in the future?
I would like to do something from WASP because they were the first eighties metal band I listened to. I would definitely want to do a cover, I’m not sure which song, but one of their songs I like.
That would be fantastic to hear in Burning Witches style, which would be so much fun.
Yeah, I think so too!
You are the newest addition to the band, and you made your debut at Sweden Rock last year. That is a huge stage to make your first appearance on. What was that like?
It was totally a surprise. When they asked me to audition and I came over they told me about all the festivals that there were, and they were sure that I would be a good fit. For them it was more about figuring out how to introduce me, the plans, what would be the next steps. When I was there, they just wanted to move on, they were being very constructive thinking about what would be the next steps to get it all done. I didn’t expect to be in a band all of a sudden, going around the world. Therefore, I’m really happy we did all the cool festivals, we played at Wacken even, we played at Sweden. Sweden, that was very nerve wracking, but at the same time like ‘yes, this what I actually tried to work for all these years and now it’s happening.’
We didn’t really announce that there would be a new singer. No one knew this, so some people noticed. Moreover, because I also have blonde hair and of course, I’m not really up close, sometimes people were thinking I was her, which was kind of funny. I still can laugh about this, there was one interviewer who reviewed one of the gigs in the past when I was not there yet, and he was like ‘did she enlarge her boobs?’ and that was so funny, he didn’t notice. It was just a great experience.
As a vocalist, how are you connecting with the old material considering you weren’t there when it was written?
For me it’s definitely important to get the emotional intent because if I’ve got that I’m not just singing the notes, I’m also really singing it. It’s not about only the notes and the style, it’s always easier to understand what you want to do. I’m also a vocal coach, so I know technically what’s happening. But I think it’s really important to feel the emotion you want to bring across and I was just listening to the songs a lot to make sure that I would also fit into the Burning Witches style. I was used to using less distortion, so I had to focus on using enough distortion, because I could do it, but I just didn’t use it as much in my previous bands.
That was for me how I prepared, and lots of vocal practice, because at that time I had not practiced for a while because I did not have any gigs coming up, I was basically just enjoying my free time and partying a lot. I was a little bit nervous about that, so I really had to take care of my voice, but eventually it all worked out, and the gigs went great.
I’m sure that your voice wasn’t the only thing you had to prepare. Burning Witches has a very distinct visual style. You’ve got lots of studs, lots of leather, were you ready for that?
That was actually very easy, I had that in my closet already because I already liked that eighties style. I had the exact clothes they wanted. They asked me when I came to the audition to bring some clothes. Therefore, we did that, and we took some pictures afterwards. Just like them, I like to customize my clothes. I buy just something basic, something basic leather top from maybe AliExpress or Wish or something like that. I don’t have to go broke, and I just put some studs through it and I enjoy doing that.
So you fit in with the band, and you did mention that in April you are going on a tour with Ross the Boss. What are you most looking forward to about that?
You know that this is the opportunity for the fans to see you with the new album, so I’m hoping for a lot of enthusiastic people to be dying to see us with the new material. And basically, just to have a good time with everyone, because that’s what it should be about. All the fans that want to see you, hopefully all of them can see us, because we go around Western Europe mostly, so I think many people will be able to see us. We hope in the future we can go to America, because at this moment it is not possible yet. We need to wait for the right opportunity, but that’s what I’m most looking forward to.
We are also having a gig in Italy, and I haven’t been with Burning Witches into Italy yet, so I’m curious about that one. For me, it’s actually the first time I go on tour for a month. That will be new for me.
Which song are you the most excited about performing live?
That’s difficult – for me, the song with the most emotional value is “Black Magic.” I am excited about doing that one live because I know I feel myself the most about it. People will probably feel that and enjoy it because of that, it’s a little more personal than the rest, and that’s why I’m really looking forward to singing that one.