Yenz Leonhardt


Back in the fold, finally to get back in to the rhythm, the pleasure of making hard edged music, graced by the powers above. It took a single person to get the Stormwarrior horde back in full swing, such energized motivation to create and come up with a potential hitter, is impressive. Releasing "Norsemen", the Stormwarrior set themselves a higher purpose and achievable goal. Steinmetal had a talk with Yenz Leonhardt, about the new album, getting back into the groove, sound, musical direction and more…
November 27, 2019
Stormwarrior's Yenz Leonhardt: "Consciously trying to construct an updated version of yourself
Hello Yenz, it is great having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing? I trust that you are quite busy now with what is going on in the Stormwarrior camp?

Hello Lior, this is Yenz jumping in for Lars, since he is currently tweaking a couple of other SW affairs, and we thought it was high time to get your interview done.

You know, right before I saw that first press releases concerning your new album, "Norsemen", I wondered to myself when was the last time I listened to something new from Stormwarrior, and here it was, information about your upcoming new album. What happened in this time period of five years that contributed to the gap?

After the "Thunder & Steele" release in 2014 we went out on the road supporting the album. First we did a European tour with Majesty and the Hungarian Wisdom and played some Summer festivals, including the German Bang Your Head Festival. We then went to Mexico City for the first time and played the Full Metal Cruise in Spain.

After that, both Lars and I felt the need to move out of Hamburg and get closer to nature. We actually both ended up heading North, so we now live like 40 km apart, pretty close to the Danish border. In my case, I found a great place in the woods, got myself two dogs and as you get settled in, time has way of slipping by. The original drummer in Stormwarrior, Falko Grau, also lives up here. He took some time out from the band after "Heading Northe" and somehow it seemed like the right moment to reel him back in and tap into the power that we had together on that album. With the three of us plus lead guitarist Björn Daigger, who replaced Alex Guth after the "Thunder and Steele" album, we really feel like an unbeatable force.

After nearly eleven years, and Stormwarrior is back to dealing with the warriors from the icy North, the Vikings. Out of interest, are you a fan of the myth and legends surrounding the Vikings' lore? Which of the famous Viking characters you can say has been a source of inspiration?

Indeed. I'm a Danish citizen, so as children we learn the Norse Mythology and History in school. In Denmark the Old Nordic Religion: Asatro or Forn Sidr was in 2003 reinstated as the official State Religion, parallel to Christianity. So The Old Way and Norse Mythology is much more than just a fascination. It is my religion and my way of life. I see myself as a follower of Odin, but all the Old Gods are important, like different pieces of the same puzzle.

I trust that you, or one of your bandmates, is a fan of the ongoing History Channel series, Vikings. Now with Season 6 just around the corner, debuting in December, are you excited about it? Regarding "Norsemen'', was the series also a source of creativity for the album's songs?

Sure, we watch the "Vikings" series. Apart from moving the Danish king Ragnar Lodbrog to Norway, it's pretty well done. I know that Lars also enjoyed the "Last Kingdom" series about Viking Danes vs. Saxons. I have to check that out. But I am pretty sure, that there are a couple of quotes from those two series on the "Norsemen" album.

Looking at the album's artwork, I can swear that every time I look at it, I see Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Thor's father, gazing at me. I can only guess that Andreas Marschall was inspired by the Thor movies to create the imagery of Odin? Furthermore, what is your appreciation of the made artwork?

Yeah, Odin is a little "Hopkinesque" on that sleeve. Like I said before, with Falko back in the band, it almost felt like a resurgence of the energy we had on the "Heading Northe" album, and taking a huge step forward from there. And I guess that the Artwork sums that up pretty well.

One of the chief elements that has been the bread and butter of Stormwarrior, was its clinging to the reins of European Power Metal, like a sort of combination of Gamma Ray and Iron Savior. Such a mixture that never really left the band's musical spirit. However, would you say that "Norsemen" rather opened a door for Stormwarrior in terms of musical development?

I actually came from Iron Savior when I joined Stormwarrior back in 2007, so I know what you're talking about. There are mutual roots, for sure. It's almost like building on a regional culture, back from Helloween's "Walls of Jericho" and the first Running Wild albums with Stormwarrior having more savage battle field in our sound and a more northern feel. To me, "Norsemen" feels like the first mature album from Stormwarrior. Maybe we have reached a point where we don't compare ourselves to other bands anymore and just go for what we really want to hear. With Falko back, we also know each other really well, and instinctively know what will work for the album and what will not. I also think that getting out of the city and being closer to nature and the Gods make you see and hear things more vividly.

As a part of a vast swarm of albums, how would you say that "Norsemen" stands out? What makes it unique in comparison to so many albums of the same genre and quality?

If we do stand out, maybe it's because we rarely get a chance to listen to the releases from other bands.

Which musical elements were provided with a well-deserved attention while you wrote the music for "Norsemen"? What aspects of the music are important to you when writing songs?

I think I can speak for Lars as well, when I say that after the basic track is down, we enjoy building up a strong atmosphere with the backing vocals and choirs. We actually do that quite spontaneously, just staying open for whatever will come from the Gods. It is often very surprising for both of us, but always great fun.

While writing the music for the album, were there thoughts of making bold steps such as experimenting with contemporary aspects of some of the newer Metal subgenres, to slightly be implemented in Stormwarrior's music?

Consciously trying to construct an updated version of yourself, is a tricky thing. It really has to come straight from your soul and not from the rational part of the brain. Here and there, I think that we do pick up influences from other genres, so in that sense, I think that we're constantly evolving. We just don't feel the need to make a radical change.

How can you describe the songwriting process of "Norsemen"? Now, with the return of your early drummer, Falko Grau, did things change in your perception of how to formulate songs?

Yeah, it feels like running with the old trusted pack of wolves, and quickly turned into this good old hungry feeling, where you know that this album will shake the ground with a loud bang.

Let's stray a bit from the subject. It is no secret that quite a substantial number of Metal fans nowadays seek out to find additional features of the Metal genre in its modern form, while mainly indulging the showcasing of technical abilities in favor to the actual songs. In your opinion, has the concept of a song become boring or unattractive? Don't merely technical qualities mean the death of the song' soul?

I'm with you on that. We definitely concentrate on strong, memorable songs first. We need to transport a lot of heart blood and emotion, so we keep the core of the songs very simple. Flashy parts and elaborate patterns are great, but if the core of the song breaks, it's all a waste of time.

Piet Sielck, provided the services of mixing and mastering once again. Since I have been a fan of his work in Iron Savior, also in terms of sound, not just the music, it was easy for me to digest your album. What is your perspective regarding Stormwarrior's sound? Do you think that it might be rather closer to Iron Savior's?

Yeah, Piet does have a trademark sound in his mixes. That is a take it or leave it situation. But it certainly works for us. As usual we were fighting to meet the deadline and were still busy recording, while Piet had to start mixing the tracks alone. And I guess that he is just about the only person in the world we would trust with that. I also think that if we would have the time to sit down and go through the process with a mixing engineer we would probably take the direction of keeping a more open sound and we might choose Norse imagery and battle field atmosphere over maximum punch per square milimeter. But again, working with Piet you know what you get and you know that the album will kill.

One of my album's favorite tracks is "Sword Dane", a full blown attack right at the throats of the Saxons. I can just inhale the energetic vibe, and the storms of war. However, this song is not simply a speeding Power Metal tune, yet it shares an ounce of drama in its galloping chorus. I wonder what is your take on this song, what do you think makes it strong?

As an original Sword Dane I can fully endorse that title. In that song we stay a bit closer to the original vibe of Norse tribal music and Norse folklore, and this authentic feel is really an important part of our identity. I also had cool images of dragon ships riding foaming ocean spray and stampeding berserkers when I recorded my tracks, and it's definitely one of my favorites on the album.

What reason led you to leave out "Shield Wall", as a standalone track, out of Stormwarrior albums until "Norsemen"? Mainly due to the fact that its theme didn't fit the albums that came after "Heading Northe"?

I remember parts of that song being demoed by Lars just before we set out to record the "Heathen Warrior" album. I don't think that it's been a conscious decision to keep the song shelved until now, though. The end result is pretty damn brutal. It sits very well among the other "Norsemen" titles.

A tough question for you, yet it is a must no matter what. With being positive that you admire nearly every tune on "Norsemen", I would like to know which of the songs has a deeper meaning for you? Please elaborate on your pick

That's a hard choice, but I will have to pick "Sword of Valhalla". That song is so in tune with our death-defying will to survive, the day to day battle for your rightful place and the moments of total clarity when you resonate with the Gods. When you've listened to that song, you'll know that we aren't some Disney make believe Vikings, but we are in fact the raw and real thing: Norsemen.

Looking forward into the unknown future, where do you see Stormwarrior going?

Now that we're back in a healthy and tight formation, we will make sure to use that energy and set the pace of future releases a couple of notches higher. We would like to deliver a couple of strong albums in a reasonably fast succession. That's how good we feel about the band right now.

What are your plans for the support of "Norsemen" for 2020?

We have some festivals planned and will probably take a new trip to Mexico in the near future, but before we start planning a longer tour, we would like to see the reactions to this album from the Metal Press and the Stormwarriors around the world. We will then act accordingly.

Yenz, many thanks for your time to take this interview. I wish you guys at Stormwarrior nothing but the best, you already blown the speakers of yours truly. Cheers mate.

My pleasure, Lior. I Hope you could live with me standing in for Lars this time around.Viking Metal Rules // Yenz

It was a great interview, and no problems there sir, your perspective is highly interesting
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