The veteran Austrian symphonic/power/progressive band Serenity are back with their latest release The Last Knight, inspired by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. Frontman Georg Neuhauser and guitarist Chris Hermsdorfer fill us in on the new record, touring and other topics.
Chad Bowar: Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for The Last Knight compared to the typical Serenity album?
Chris Hermsdorfer: It has been the first time we are working together with Sascha Paeth as producer. So you can call this “unique.“ The songwriting itself was done by us like usual.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Chris: I think we have never been so focused and determined in the songwriting process as with this album. Of course in every record before we knew what we will write about – but in view of song structure and content this time we knew from the first second, what it should be like and all about.
Did you struggle with track order?
Chris: The track order is always difficult, but this time we were able to set them in order super fast and without long discussions.
What inspired you to focus on Maximilian I this time around?
Georg Neuhauser: Since I am a kid, I was always fascinated by history – especially in history of the 15th and 16th century. 2019 was a special year because 500 years ago one of the most famous emperors we ever had died. So it was somehow logical for us to dedicate our new album to him.
You have a Ph.D. in history. When doing research on an album topic, is it challenging to translate scholarly facts about a subject into compelling lyrical content?
Georg: Yes, it is quite difficult – because lyrics like “in the year 1490 it happened….” don’t work in music. So you have to find a way to combine historical facts AND good sounding, poetic lyrics.
7 albums into your career, how have your goals and expectations changed for a new album release?
Chris: I think we became a bit more relaxed about our goals. We know about our skills to create great power and symphonic metal music. We know how the process of creating a new album is working and we have a kind of feeling what we can expect of releasing an album. But, we are always ready to be surprised! So If the goal has been achieved to surpass the previous album, we are ready for higher goals. (laughs)
What are the pros and cons of managing the band yourself?
Chris: Everything you can do by yourself is connecting you stronger and more intense with the band. So you can decide what’s the best for your band in your view and you don’t have to follow a given structure by someone who is not a real part of the organism Serenity. But of course we are also working with external help in things we know we cannot do it or from whom we can get help.
How much attention do you pay to reviews?
Chris: First of course we try to pay attention to every review, if it’s one from a big magazine or an unknown online reporter as every view, every commendation or critic can show you ideas or feedback, what we have done great or what we can do better. In general it depends on how objective a review is written – because if you see it’s a super subjective fan or hater view, you cannot get out so much for your song writing process.
You shot videos for “Set The World On Fire” and “Souls and Sins.” How important are videos these days?
Chris: Music video are still important especially as YouTube is a fixed part in how people consume music besides CDs or streaming. And you can add a second perspective to a song in the way to create your videos. So we try to show always our best to create videos our fans could love and to get new fans of our music.
You have a European tour coming up. How do you go about constructing a setlist for a tour, and does it change from show to show?
Chris: The hardest part is always to stay on time as we always would like to play all songs (laughs), but we know that’s impossible and we have to fix it to the time length we are able to play. So we try to set a great flow into the set, powerful not boring, no long breaks and so many other facts we try to keep in mind. On a tour we usually keep one set but sometimes we also do surprises or spontaneous songs, so no one can be sure it will be the same like the day before.
Where haven’t you played live that you’d still like to get to?
Chris: We have never been to Asia and South America so far, so that’s always on our list we have to go to, also because we know that there are many Serenity fans there we want to do a show for.
Will there be another Phantasma record?
Georg: Hard to say. I would love to do another metal-musical, but Charly is very busy with Delain, I am very busy with Serenity. It’s hard to combine our schedule – but never say never.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Georg: The latest album by a band called Eclipse from Sweden. Fucking great album! And the latest Temperance album – also great stuff!
(interview published January 31, 2020)