Marek "Heathen" Steven


Even after five years, a burning heart never tires. One of the finest Heavy Metal talents, hailing from the UK, Amulet, is back to storm the scene with a new album, "The Inevitable War". Armed with a new album, a new line up but with a similar classic Metal approach, there is a force to be reckoned with. Steinmetal had a chat with Marek Steven, aka Heathen, about the new album, its contents and looks, a little bit of history, NWOBHM / NWOTHM and Manowar
July 11, 2019
Amulet's Marek Steven: "…apparently the reason Manowar cancelled is that at the last minute they told the organizers they needed BOTH main stages
Cheers Marek, I am pleased to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online magazine. How have you been doing?

Thanks for the time Lior! I've been doing OK thanks. Very busy with work and the band and re-starting my "Live Evil Festival" after a few years off. Can't complain though!

It has been five years since Amulet's debut album, "The First", and here you are again, under a new album, releasing "The Inevitable War". Congrats for that, but first things first. What kept you from going forward with an early release, passing the debut? What happened in the past five years?

Thanks, yeah it's been too long. The writing was going fairly slowly for the second album; we arguably didn't seem to be on exactly the same page musically. Then we had the bassist, drummer and singer left in one-year intervals so had to find new members which slowed it all down too. We've ended up with a killer line-up all pulling in the same direction so it's been troubled but worth it in the end. We're in a good place. Still with the guitarists intact!

How has been the general reaction from the new album? Do you believe that it would have an increased effect than the previous?

The reaction (reviews, comments) has been a little better than "The First" I think - which was also well received generally - which has been nice. Hopefully it will have a good effect on our career! There is a lot more competition in this area now than there was in 2011-2014 so we had to pull our socks up, and I think we did. We'll see! We need to play a more gigs! We're happy.

Once you were signed with Century Media, which the way I see it, quite an achievement. However, for the sophomore, you signed locally with Dissonance Productions. Did you leave Century Media or was it the other way around? As for Dissonance, was it a mutual interest?

Yeah, the "Cut the Crap" EP was good and well received so Century Media took a chance on us. We made a few mistakes turning down tours etc. due to work and even though we get on very well with them I can see why they dropped us to be honest. They were also taken over by Sony which is the reason they gave us up. Dissonance has been great so far as it's basically the same deal we had before and the same amount of press and advertising but they are UK based which helps in various ways. They have pretty amazing distribution as they part of Plastichead Distro too. Century Media are a much bigger label though so there were advantages to being on it. We appreciate our time spent on such a legendary marque!

What do you consider as inevitable when you decided upon the album's title "The Inevitable War"? What were you aiming at when you ran the idea for the title in your mind? Is there a connection to our present day world?

Sam came up with that, he says "The title was actually inspired by a British political TV comedy, where a flustered Minister of Agriculture declares 'War is neither foreseeable or unforeseeable' to the press and causes an incident. Our album title isn't a joke, but it does play on the same severe implications."

The original title for the album was 'The Second Dimension' which would have had a photo of the band trapped in a strange hellish dimension on the cover. Or a violent 2D medieval battle scene. We went with the latter and Nippy was aware of this amazing 16th century painting. I think the idea for the name change came partly from that as 'The Second Dimension' wasn't suitable for such an epic battle scene or indeed for the album's many battle-focused songs!

The album's artwork is quite astonishing, who made it? It looks like a scene out of The Battle Of Helm's Deep or something like that? Was it the overall intent to make it epic?

I think detailed album covers are always appealing as you can look at them whilst listening to the music. The artwork is a re-touched (by Sam) version of 'The Suicide of Saul', an oil painting by the Dutch Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, from 1562. It's held in Vienna and funnily enough the actual painting is the same size as a gatefold LP. It's a biblical scene but depicted in 16th Century clothing etc. It's a story involving witches and death and it's a powerful piece no doubt, and suitable for our war-leaning album.

Musically, I found "The Inevitable War" as a continuance to your early efforts on "The First", that wonderful touch of NWOBHM, which made your local scene so grand. What is your perception of the new album's music pattern? Is there a direction, or approach, changes in comparison to the debut?

Thanks, I think the album sounds a little different but the general end result is very similar to "The First" in terms of the overall style of songs, riffs, atmospheric parts and so on. I understand the NWOBHM reference but technically that was a movement between 1977-1984 not a music genre. We are British though and play early sounding Heavy Metal so I get it. It does sound like NWOBHM sometimes. We're not trying to make it sound that way though. We love varied styles of heavy music from the 70s and 80s from all over the world. Hopefully that is apparent too in the variety.

What was your vision for "The Inevitable War" earlier on and was the end result just as you envisioned it to be?

Nippy and I agreed that we wanted to push ourselves a bit more with the playing and song-writing and I think we did that – especially with the years we were forced into having to complete it due to the line-up changes! We wanted to have more vocal texture and double-tracking for the first time and keyboards integrated into the songs. We also wanted the record to sound a bit more high-fidelity, but balanced - something like a Martin Birch production (Iron Maiden, early 80s Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult etc.) and in doing so take our time to make sure we were happy at each stage. We managed to achieve all of that I think thanks to Nip's brother Tom Blackford who really took his time on the engineering and mixing of it. We owe him a lot, he produced it for free too basically! Maniac!

I heard various comments regarding NWOBHM done nowadays, of course like any commentaries, it is merely a 50/50 sort of battle. How do you see the old movement's revival in today's modern driven Metal scene? And I am not referring purely to England, though you guys were the pioneers

Let's call it NWOTHM maybe? There seem to be a lot of really good bands coming out now who are proving popular like Eternal Champion, Visigoth, Riot City, Sabire etc. etc. I personally am enjoying them all as they have songs and impactful albums you want to listen to. There is definitely a lot more competition, but it's got to be a good thing as it hopefully gets people listening to quality metal and going to shows. Young blood to replace the old dinosaurs haha.

Out of the album's tracklist there must be that tune that made an impact on you? That one song that you just can pass a day without. Can you share what it is?

I really do like the whole album but presently I am listening to "The Satanist" a lot. It's the one I wrote the most of but I don't think I'm being egotistical, I'm just really pleased and impressed with how it came out after working on and holding onto it since 2014 and various line-up changes. It was improving throughout and particularly at the end with the vocals and keyboards added. A great collaboration. I think it's a fun listen, dynamic and I like the fact it has a serious occult and esoteric theme but is not too po-faced or one-dimensional. "Roundhead" is a masterpiece though, haha and "Poison Chalice" is an another go-to for me. The end is so heavy and came out really well. A lot of that one was very much at the last minute with lyrics and guitar work decided and laid down or improvised on the spot in the studio!

What can you tell about the Roundhead trilogy? Sounds pretty interesting, though I have the feeling that it is probably based on something that is known and I can't put my finger on

Roundhead is an English Civil War focused song that is Nippy's baby. It's based on a really interesting time in English history where our Royalty was overthrown for only 15 or so years after a civil great war. It's a great theme and Nip wrote the track years ago. We finally got around to adding lyrics (Sam mainly, who is great at punchy lyrics) and extended the intro - but the song is the same as the one he demoed in 2015. We recently made an authentic video for it at a huge re-enactment where one of the main sieges happened at Basing House in 1645. Tempted to see if we can do another song about the War, it's a fascinating period!

Recently the Epic Metal juggernauts, Manowar, cancelled their appearance in the Hellfest Festival due to what seemed like sound / stage related issues, problems that fell to the laps of the Hellfest organizers. What is your opinion on the matter? Is that another sign that the old Metal gods are coming to a close? Does Manowar have a case?

This is a great question. We're all big Manowar fans. Ok, well first of all, of course, they totally let down the fans to cancel so late in the day. I couldn't go to the fest but would have gone mainly for them if I was free. I would have been super pissed off if I had. They are not winning anyone over, they should have made it work. BUT an insider told me that apparently the reason they cancelled is that – at the last minute – they told the organizers they needed BOTH main stages, and one stage would have a massive volcano on it. That it both hilarious and pretty (literally!) awesome. So it fits with the ludicrous and single-minded nature of the band. My balanced response is that Joey probably needs an organized and calm manager to make sure he doesn't make stupid decisions like cancelling shows at the last minute. It was surely avoidable if they had communicated better at all stages. But yeah, haha, we'll miss them when they're gone!

What bands have you been listening to lately? Any promising acts that one day may be the next Metal gods or that definition is soon to be gone from the world of Metal?

Mainly Amulet. Otherwise I do think Eternal Champion, Visigoth, Riot City, Sabire and many more are doing some great work and deserve their success. Things will definitely be different in the future, but bands will take the place of the old headliners. Bands like Ghost, Rammstein etc are already doing it. More will come, but it will never be how it was before, metal was massive before dance music and all the other genres came in, it's just another genre now in a sea awash with themed festivals.

Any plans to support the new album? UK tour? European tour? Festival booking and sorts?

As much as we can, we're working on it cos we just lost our booker. But we have some good plans and want to do as many festivals and Euro shows as we can. Let us know if you want us, we will come!

Marek, I would like to thank you for your time for the interview. Much appreciated. I really enjoyed your new album and I am sure that it would continue to be received respectively. All the best

Pleasure, that was a good chat! Never give up!

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