Tension Unleashes Hell-Bent, Hard-Rocking “Black Knights” (Early Track Stream + Interview)
Long gaps in band activity can mean anything. It could signify internal conflict, a lack of interest in songwriting, difficulty with the songwriting process, or a fine-minded attitude towards perfectionism. It’s impossible to tell from the outside, and perhaps the new Tension album Decay, coming out some five years after their self-titled debut EP, would have been just as well-done if it dropped in 2019 or 2020, but I doubt it. Decay is beautiful and shines with an inner fire of obscurity, drawing equally from the prolific 1980s Swedish heavy metal scene as from the lesser-known Eastern Bloc one, amongst other buried treasure bands.
To the deep heavy metal fan, it’s a comfort food feast, but Decay is by no means obtuse in its pursuit of forgotten paths, giving plenty to hold onto for all fans of heavy music and hard rock. Today’s track premiere, “Black Knights,” offers a tremendously catchy chorus that bounces forth sporadically after melodic sections of dual-lead heavy metal magic. The simplicity of the chorus lends it the strength to stand up to the sometimes more complicated guitarwork and songwriting through the rest of it, striking an excellent balance between being a nostalgic anthem and providing something new. The whole album is a balance between that sense of retrospection and the band’s clear energy and passion, and the result is killer: a tribute to the old but also a hail to the new.
Check out the premiere of “Black Knights” and read an interview with guitarist Phil M below.
Tell me more about this beautiful winged figure adorning the artwork of the album—is it a beast from the song “Hellflight?”
The winged creature on the cover is supposed to be your inner demons, which are rising in many people’s heads during those times of Decay. But of course you could also put it in a context with the lyrics of "Hellflight" or many of the other songs. Basically the concept of the artwork was to show that these demons are rising, while the world around us is somehow collapsing and falling apart. This creature was also seen on the artwork for our first EP, it`s the shadow of the guy walking down the path. So it's also a nice continuation of what we started with the EP.
Did you plan to have the winged figure show up on both the EP and the album when you originally put it out? Will he be a mascot that continues throughout more future releases?
The winged figure was originally only supposed to appear on the EP cover, but after we talked about the possible design for the artwork and collected ideas, we thought it would be a very nice idea to keep using it.
Who knows if we will use it in the future? Let's see what happens in that matter.
It took some five years between the self-titled EP and the release of Decay. Were you actively songwriting throughout that period?
Yes, we were actively songwriting in that period, but it was really difficult to actually meet and rehearse, since our old guitarist left us and we had to find a replacement just before the small tour we did through Germany and France in 2019. So we had about 5-6 songs written before the tour, and we wrote the rest after. Then we decided to record everything, but Clemens (the new guitarist) decided to leave due to time reasons shortly after. He still recorded the album with us, but the whole process of songwriting and recording was pretty difficult as you probably can imagine.
Will you be replacing Clemens rapidly now that you’ve finished recording? Is a
dual-guitar attack essential to the continuation of the band at any given point?
We will try to, but it's hard to find good lead guitarists with a nice feeling to their playing. Skills aren't the most important, it's more about the feeling. Also the current situation makes it quite hard in general to get to know new people/musicians.
A dual guitar attack is, in my opinion, essential for sure. It's the quintessence of Heavy Metal and gives you way more possibilities within songwriting. Also there's nothing better than hearing a nice twin lead on records or live, it always makes me smile when I hear stuff like that.
Maybe this originates in my love for Thin Lizzy [laughs].
There’s a very clear influence present in your music from the ‘80s Swedish heavy metal scene, alongside obscure influences such as Eastern Bloc bands and the deeper side of the NWOBHM. What draws the band to these sounds, and why are they more special to you than better-trodden paths?
What draws us to these sounds is basically that Maik (vocals) and I were listening to these kind of bands since our teenage years and sharing this passion. That's why we got to know each other and became friends. We were sharing many obscure bands with each other and learning about music. These bands have a special vibe, it's really fascinating how amazing many of those bands sounded, without having a big budget to record or a label.Also they mostly sound pretty raw and pure, which adds a lot to the atmosphere of their music.
I would always prefer a small obscure band over the big ones, because there's always something new to discover and I love it when you hear an unknown compilation and suddenly you have this "WOW!" moment when a certain song starts. And especially these Eastern bloc bands sometimes are super fascinating, if you put it in context with the political situation in their country at the time they recorded this. It's many different aspects that cause this passion for those bands. It's hard to describe, but maybe you get the point.
Do you see your own band at all as a way to expose people to the obscure bands and sounds you love so much?
Of course we do see it as a way to expose people to those bands. I mean, many people who like us probably know most of those bands. But especially people who mostly listen to newer bands and got into the scene by discovering newer bands, might not know the old obscure ones. So it's a good and nice way to maybe introduce them to these kind of bands.
Decay releases January 28th via Dying Victims Productions.