Entering the Underground #2: Hail The Fiery Steel of Megaton Sword
Switzerland isn’t known for having a strong modern heavy metal scene, both traditional and overall, but Megaton Sword are aiming to change that. Though they only formed in 2018, the band put out an excellent EP on Dying Victims Productions soon after and a debut album Blood Hails Steel - Steel Hails Fire late last year, putting them on a prolific path to glory that will hopefully continue with more releases in the near future.
For now, what we have is a bunch of epic heavy metal that’s most easily compared to stalwarts Eternal Champion and Manilla Road. The powerful vocals are a unique and nasally assault in the same general vein as singers like Baker or Jones (though the actual attack is all vocalist Dan Thundersteel’s own!), which proved divisive in the scene—but personally, I think that they fit the music well, and I’d take a more unique approach over a cookie-cutter one any day. At the end of the day, the riffs are pounding and epic, the music kills, and the overall sound is a distinct landmark within modern epic metal. Some of the stranger vocal lines and stronger riffs on Niralet in particular show a band with the potential to go very, very far, and the band is here today for this edition of Entering the Underground to talk about their music.
Hey guys, thanks for doing this interview with Invisible Oranges! Your debut album, Blood Hails Steel - Steel Hails Fire, came out last year on Dying Victims Productions. How do you think it was received by the global heavy metal community?
Thundersteel: Hi Brandon, thanks for having us! I think it was received extremely well and it definitely exceeded our expectations. We’re pretty overwhelmed with all the feedback and praise we received. Obviously there has also been some criticism and people who don’t like what we do, mainly because of the unique vocals. We kind of split the metal community in this regard, which we view as a big success. At least people are talking about us, whether they like us or not. I think there is nothing more boring than bands that are really polished and don’t have any flaws or edges. So yeah, all in all I can say we’re very happy with the response we got.
I don’t know much about Switzerland’s heavy metal scene after the 1980s. Can you shed some light for me and our readers on what’s going on over there these days, and how you guys fit in?
Thundersteel: Well, it really has been a bit quiet regarding the Swiss scene abroad in the late 19190s, early 2000s. There weren’t many bands getting international recognition but there’s always been a rather small but dedicated underground scene, which has seen a resurgence and has grown in numbers in the past few years, with more bands being formed and more and more younger fans, including me, indulging in the old school metal sound. When there’s no pandemic raging through the lands, we have a ton of underground shows happening every week, so Switzerland, especially the Zürich and Basel area, have great scenes. We don’t really fit in musically, as most of the more promising underground acts around here are playing extreme metal, but people seem to really dig what we do and almost craved for a band like this, playing this traditional style of Epic Metal. We maintain strong bonds to bands such as Death Metal maniacs VOMITHEIST, NWOBHM-worshippers HAILE SELACID, Black and Death Metal hordes ANTIVERSUM and DEATHCULT, as well as to the HELVETIC UNDERGROUND COMMITTEE, who put Switzerland on the map in terms of Black Metal again in the past few years. Check them out if you wanna find out what’s going on in Switzerland, despite testosterone-laden Epic Metal.
Both the new album and your debut EP were released by Dying Victims Productions. How did you hook up with Florian?
Thundersteel: This may sound a bit pretentious, but when we finished the recordings for Niralet, we knew we had a product so good, that it just had to be released by a proper label. So we sent out rough mixes of the EP to some labels we really like, who share the same sense of underground ethics and deliver great quality pressings of their releases. Flo was the first one to show interest and get back to us. We can only say good things about him and Dying Victims. Working with him has been very enjoyable and proved to be extremely fruitful. We were both a bit surprised by the success, obviously still on a rather small scale, of Blood Hails Steel. It’s really interesting to kind of grow with a label. I think Dying Victims can go really far with the stellar work they put into the cause of metal.
Uzzy takes a very atypical approach to his vocal performance and lyrics. Was it difficult to develop this singing style and lyrical approach, or did it come naturally?
Uzzy Unchained: No, it was not a long quest. I trusted my guts and wanted to write melodies and lyrics that are as expressive as possible. The band liked it and so I continued following my intuition.
Some of the strangest passages on the album and Niralet evoke the memory of bands like Deep Switch and Hell. Are you consciously taking influences from that side of heavy metal or is the weirdness all your own?
Unchained: I guess I’ll make a complete fool of me, but I don’t even know the bands you’ve just mentioned. Well, I’ll have to check them out. That’s for sure. Regarding influences, I believe everything you listen to potentially influences you but I don’t think about this when I’m singing. I just go with the music of the band and do my part.
Are the vocal lines written alongside the music, or do they come after the guitar and drums are already in place?
Unchained: I always write the vocal lines when the song is mostly finished. First I focus on the melodies, then I write the lyrics. Theoretically, the band would be okay with adjustments to the song structure at that point. It's good to know that I could intervene, but I don’t remember if I ever used that privilege. Once I have a more or less clear vocal line written, we start finalizing all the parts of the song. Often I then make some final adjustments.
Dan Thundersteel is the only original member of the band with other credited experience on Metal-Archives. Had anyone else played in bands prior to Megaton Sword?
Chris the Axe: Simon and I played for almost 10 years together in a progressive metal band called “das Archea”. We learned a lot in that time, but the sound of the band didn’t draw a lot of audience. The sound was quite complex and extreme. Uzzy plays bass and sings in the kosmik-rock band “Viaticum”. The bands I currently play in are a surf rock band called “Billy Don’t Surf” and the sludge/noise band “Kitzler”.
Thundersteel: Seth Angel actually plays in Forlet Sires with me and we’ve known each other for years. When we were looking for a second guitar player, it was pretty clear, to get someone of our own realms to come on board. Also, we didn’t have more space in the rehearsal room, which we share with Forlet Sires, for another amp. Simple as that.
What does Megaton Sword give you guys that these other bands didn’t?
Thundersteel: Well, first of all it’s awesome to play this kind of music! Especially me, Simon, and Uzzy have been longing to do this for quite some time but haven’t found any like minded people until we all met each other at the infamous Obituary show in Zürich in 2018. Besides that, it’s really nice to be in a band that gets noticed on a bit of a wider scale. Once we had the first songs ready, we knew we had something special and set our goals quite high right from the start. The shared sense of ambition in the group, in the sense of actually achieving something and reaching a new level of professionalism as a band and musicians, is really cool. Especially if you’re in it with your best friends. It almost feels like we have some kind of gang mentality going on...us against the world, which feels quite awesome. I’m extremely excited to see where this ride takes us.
Everyone in the band uses old school stage names instead of their real names. How did the decision to take that route come together, and how did you come up with the stage names?
Thundersteel: The Niraletian gods graced us with these epic names… we had no choice but to accept them. But to be honest, pseudonyms are just cool and a very Rock’n’Roll thing to have. We didn’t even really have to talk about it in the beginning of the band. We just already knew that we’d be using pseudonyms.
It’s rare for newer bands to shell out for professional artwork on their first demo/EP, but Niralet and Blood Hails Steel - Steel Hails Fire both feature paintings from Adam Burke. What made you decide to hire him from the get go, and what draws you to his art?
Thundersteel: I think a great visual presentation of the music is extremely important and gets neglected way too often. Adam’s grand, illustrious painting-style fits the over the top, colorful and testosterone filled sonic and visual aspects of Epic Metal perfectly. I already worked with Adam previous to Megaton Sword for my other band’s, Forlet Sires’, latest album. I fell in love with his artworks for Loss, Hooded Menace, and Vektor. So since I was already in contact with him, it was obvious that we’d ask him, if he’d be up to work with us for the Niralet EP. We were so happy with the result that we didn’t even think twice when it came to deciding who should do the Blood Hails Steel artwork. And he’s really outdone himself with this one. I remember the second I saw it, hungover in bed on my phone, I was completely awestruck. He was able to capture this tragically bombastic moment of Naelle’s fleet arriving in Kerszh perfectly. He’s truly a master of his craft and one of the best in the field, if you ask me. It’s an honor to work with him and have his paintings grace our covers. As I’m writing this answer, I’m signing another contract with him for an upcoming Megaton-release. So we’re really glad to continue this fruitful relationship.
If I remember correctly, previous interviews discussed an original lyrical world that your music takes place in. Will this continue to be elaborated on in future releases?
Unchained: Yes, there will be more stories from Niralet in future releases. They are connected by an overall storyline and every song represents a snapshot of the overall plot. But I had to accept that it will probably not be possible to tell the complete story. It would be too much text and originally I started making up this story to support the music, not vica versa. We hope to publish a timeline as soon as there are enough lyrics. That way it will be possible to better grasp the lyrical connections between the songs. That would be a plus. Although, I hope you can enjoy our music and lyrics even without further information on those connections.
What’s next for Megaton Sword?
Thundersteel: Conquering the world. Spread the lore of Niralet all around the globe. That’s obviously the ultimate goal. But short term, we’re planning on releasing some new music along with a few other surprises this upcoming Fall and hopefully play shows again, once this pandemic is over. So yeah...we’ll definitely try to keep up the excitement around Megaton Sword and Niralet.
Do you have anything else to talk about or promote?
Thundersteel: We want to express our gratitude towards everyone that supported us in any way shape or form. You guys rule and show that Heavy Metal is alive and well. The camaraderie and supportiveness within the scene, not just from fans, but also from bands, is something that’s just unique and keeps me going. And a special thanks shall be extended to you, Brandon! Thanks for having us.
Blood Hails Steel - Steel Hails Fire released on November 13th, 2020 via Dying Victim Productions.