Christian Sommerfeld

Circle Of Silence

It hasn't been easy for the German Power Metal band, Circle Of Silence. Losing their bass player, Björn Boehm, just recently (R.I.P), hasn't been easy. Boehm was one of the band's influential songwriters and a prominent member that his magnitude was felt. Nonetheless, it was important to continue his legacy and the band's new album, "Walk Through Hell", is an evidence to one's life's work. Steinmetal had the pleasure to explore Boehm's important to the band, along with info on the album's dark nature and more, with Christian Sommerfeld, that had a lot to tell about the experience.  
August 14, 2022
Circle Of Silence's Christian Sommerfeld: "…my personal interpretation is that you should always be a good person then the evil side will always loose…" interview
Hello Christian, it is a pleasure of mine to have you for this interview with Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

Thanks, good so far but melting a lot with the current weather situation hehe.

I know that lately things have been easy on yourself and the band members of Circle Of Silence. Other than the pandemic that hit hard, disabling options to go live, or even live properly, your bass player, and co-founder of the band, Björn Boehm passed away. My condolences sir. Any words that you wish to express in his memory?

It is still hard what happened and Björn is truly missed by all of us. He will be kept in our memory forever that's for sure, not just what he did for our band also as a friend and a great human being. He was the pole of rest of us. Walk Through Hell is his life's work and I'm pretty sure all of us who knew him will always remember him when listening to the songs. As a band I just want to say thank you for all he did for the band.

If I am not mistaken, prior to his passing, Björn was able to complete his part for the band's new album, "Walk Through Hell". What can you tell about his impact on the record?

Yes, he was able to finish his part. Björn wrote all the lyrics and the vocals lines for this album. But also, for the previous two records. He was involved a lot over the time in doing that and we all think that he did an absolutely great job and without him the album would not be what it is now. Me personally I would say with Walk Through Hell he delivered his best work in this area so far and the almost all reviews agree on that.

Talking about "Walk Through Hell", the album was created in a mentioned time period that didn't make it any easy to anyone. How were you able to harness your energies and motivation in such a time that rather degraded motivation for many artists?

That is a little difficult to answer because there were both sides. On the on-hand because of the pandemic we had a lot of time working on the songs itself. And I would say that this is one of the reasons why Walk Through Hell is our best album so far. But of course, there were also the hard times for Björn. At the beginning it was a bit difficult to work on lyrics as before because of his cancer disease. But after a time, he used also writing lyrics for his motivation to always kept fighting and I guess writing those lyrics helped him a lot. You can hear this for example in the lyrics of the songs Walk Through Hell or Triumph Over Tragedy.

One of my first guesses, in regards to the album's title, "Walk Through Hell", is the fact that we all were living through a version of hell, something that none of us really expected. Was that your main reference or did you have different ideas in mind when that title came up?

The song Walk Through Hell itself is hardly related to Björn and his cancer disease. Especially the year 2020 with lots of chemotherapy and subsequent surgeries was a hard year for Björn. At the end it looked good for him and that is meant with Walk Through Hell and Back. But Björn often wrote his lyrics in a way that everyone can interpret some lyrics on its own. It was important for him that you can see the positive things in his lyrics and that they gave someone strength while having hard times.

There is a dark shadow casting itself upon the album, in a way an angrier approach, which reflected both on the music and lyrical end. How did this shadow influence the spirituality of the songs? What else did you try to express through these bleaker emotions? 

As Björn wrote all the lyrics it is hard to answer such questions in a right way. At the end he wrote a mix of fictional and non-fictional topics. Some lyrics are related to well-known movies or comics such as The Curse or United and others are personal lyrics. Of course, there are some a little darker than others but especially regarding the lyrics of Walk Through Hell or Triumph Over Tragedy despite the sad story behind them they are also very positive and to never give up.

The album's artwork might not be different from many others that portray a giant form, usually evil driven, against a minor threat, also a kind of hero, it still holds a deeper meaning. What is this struggle that I am looking at here? How does this artwork fit well with the intentions that this album expresses?

It is a direct interpretation of the title Walk Through Hell. There is a person walking through hell, having the will to go back to the other side and some evil creature trying to prevent him. Behind the evil creature there is the door out of hell and looking at the so-called hero he stands strong with a high motivation to triumph over the evil.

We talked about the darkened form of "Walk Through Hell", and explored its spiritual form. How does this form ride along with your set of values, and beliefs? What morals, in your view, can be generated from the album as a whole?

The core statement of the album is to never give up and to stay positive. And my personal interpretation is that you should always be a good person then the evil side will always loose. Or according to the song United, if we stand together we will always be strong. But of course Björn could have answered such questions much better than me because it's his lyrics.

As dark as the lyrics, there is also the music. Adding to your constant flavor of European Power Metal, upon its tougher form, "Walk Through Hell" is no doubt your heaviest. Surging with enticing meaty riffs, to the side of a melodic stream that dwells with might, the experience turned out to be a pleasurable banger. How do you find the dark element within the band's music on the album, and with a C tuning no less? Do you recognize the end result of the album as the next step of Circle Of Silence?

When we started with the songwriting, our intention was indeed to write the heaviest Circle Of Silence album so far. We started with the songwriting as always in our normal D-Standard tuning, but it felt like we repeated ourselves and some songs had not natural feeling. So we decided to switch our tuning to Drop-C and we gave up the goal to write the heaviest album so far. But at the end with the new tuning there were many fresh ideas and naturally also the songs became heavier. And yes, I see this as the next step us, I think we'll keep the Drop-C tuning for the next album as well.

Is it expected that the next Circle Of Silence albums will be written with C tuning as well? What about the live element, I guess all your tracklist would be lowered in tuning as well?

Yes, I think the next Circle Of Silence albums will be written with Drop-C as well. In a live situation we either have to switch the guitars or quickly change the tuning which mostly is, depending on the used guitar, also no problem. And of course, some of the older songs can easily be transcribed to Drop-C tuning.

The lockdowns, and restrictions, of the wretched pandemic appeared to be in your favor, due to the fact that you had more time to work on the record. With time on your hands, on which aspects did you focus more than usual while the songwriting process was underway?

We focussed a lot more on details and we also changed songs during the recording process which is not possible with booked studio time. If we thought that a part of a song does not fit perfectly, we just removed it or changed it. Also, there were some songs which were not planned to be on the album like "God Is A Machine" but at the end we worked again on this song a lot and it improved a lot thanks to that. Next to that we had the time to have much more voices for our lead and solo guitars and as well for the vocals. This makes the whole record more epic than our previous ones.

Talking about the songwriting, what can you share about its proceedings, in particular in such a challenging time period? What lessons of the past were implemented while you wrote the songs?

Regarding the song writing itself, related to me, it was less challenging than before as I had much more time for it. All other leisure activities were cancelled so I had a lot of time concentrating on the songwriting. For Björn of course it was different cause of his cancer disease. As already said at the beginning it was hard for him to work on new lyrics but then he pulled motivation from it. But I cannot speak in detail for him regarding that question.

Another aspect of the record is the rehearsing of the songs, along with its recording. How were you able to accomplish both processes in such a timeframe? Later on, did you feel any pressure of sorts to complete the entire thing?

We never rehearsed the songs before the recording process cause of the pandemic. We wrote all of the songs at home and everybody added his part to the songs. Of course we shared the songs a  lot and discussed them online. And as we recorded the songs also in our home studio we had absolutely no pressure in completing them. The recording process went from February until June. At first, we started with the rhythm guitars and then we recorded the vocals of one song in a week. And in between from time to time we added the drums, bass, lead and solo guitars without any pressure.

Contributing to the robustness of the album is its sound, which played a hectic role in how "Walk Through Hell" is administered to one's ears. Who engineered / produced the album? What can you share about your initial vision of how Circle Of Silence would sound on the record?

The album was produced by ourselves and mixed and mastered by Kai Stahlenberg of the Kohlekeller Studios. I have absolutely nothing to complain about it, Kai did a great job. He gave us exactly the sound as we wanted and with his mix the songs were lifted to another level than before. We more or less said him that we want to sound a bit heavier and darker than before and after some smaller correction he delivered exactly what we wanted.

Looking through the experience of "Walk Through Hell", upon its easy going, and harder, moments, what can you say that you learned from the entire process of the album? What were you able to learn about the chemistry of the band, about yourself as a musician and songwriter?

Mostly we learned a lot about producing and recording. I think doing it on our own improved the songs a lot and just considering this fact the next time we should do the same. But on the other hand, we also learned that this is a lot of work especially for myself. I did most of the recording and editing and before I just recorded my guitars in the studio and that's it. I'm not yet sure whether this is possible again for our next album cause in the meanwhile three of us have kids. Let's see. The songwriting process was more or less the same as always they only difference was that none of the songs were rehearsed before the recording.

"United" is one of those tracks that leaves you with a clenched fist, as if you needed that dosage of inspiration, motivation, inner strength in order to push through obstacles in your life. All you need is a push, so to speak. This track is fierce and hooking, planting its seed pretty well. What can you share about this track, and your appreciation of it?

I would say your interpretation of the song is perfect. The lyrics are about Lord Of The Rings, standing up together to fight against the evil. From the musical side the song is one our of longest and most diversified songs so far. We worked a lot of time on this song and we're very proud of it.

It is always a puzzle for me why great tracks end up as bonuses. You finish the record with "This Is War" and "Fire", two powerful, classically driven Power Metal tracks that deserve a lot of credit for why this album, as a whole, is a dominant force. Please indulge me, how did these two find their way into being a bonus? Was it strategic thinking of sorts?

The answer is quite simple. We also have LPs of Walk Through Hell and  LPs have a limited play time. So it was not possible to put all of the songs on the LP so we had to pick two songs as bonus tracks for the CD. This is very often the reason for Bonus Tracks hehe. Initially it was planned to have this songs somewhere in the middle of the tracklist. This Is War was picked as Bonus Track because At War With Yourself is a similar song but in our opinion a bit stronger. And Fire was picked a Bonus Track because we thought that the remaining songs are in general a bit stronger but of course this does not mean that we think it is a bad song.

Joined with a new bass player, I assume that Circle Of Silence will be heading out to support its new record. What are the plans going ahead? Which song are you going to pay tribute to Björn?

So far, we have no clear plans of a tour but we plan to play more concerts in the near future. But despite the fact of Corona I hope that they will not cancelled again in autumn of winter. As a tribute to Björn Walk Through Hell and our strongest song Triumph Over Tragedy will be a fixed part of our live setlist. The last two years were hard for all bands and also with out band situation we need to regain our footing.

Christian, many thanks for your time for this interview, it was great for me to have you talk about "Walk Through Hell", a record that I hope is the beginning of something. All the best

Thank you very much for the great interview! All the best to you!

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