NORGAAHL: "An album is still much more than the sum of its individual songs - It's the beauty of the compilation"

When I went to see the band NORGAAHL last year due to a recommendation of a friend, but not really knowing what to expect, I got surprised to hear some vigorous, raw Death Metal. During a chat afterwards, I learned about new music being in progress, and invited them to join our musical journey.    


With the new EP "Kraxelmann" coming out on March 22, 2024, welcome to learn more about this five-piece from Munich and the mystical stories they have to tell: 

Hey, thanks for making time to answer my questions. Could you please introduce yourself and Norgaahl to our readers? 

Fabi: Sure :-) I'm Fabian, have been playing guitar for about 25 years now, and with Norgaahl since its founding in 2016. In real life, I'm a biologist and earn my living not with music, but in software development. 

Michi: I'm Michi, co-founder and singer of Norgaahl. There was a pre-band, around 2013, and I've been playing music with Anton, our drummer, for almost 20 years now. In my other life, I'm an IT professional, handling various technical aspects in the background. 

Bas: I'm Bas, the bassist and newcomer here, having joined just half a year ago. I found the band through an internet ad and thought, "Wow, Death Metal, that's what I always wanted to do." When I'm not making music, I'm an engineer, working with semiconductors, microsystem technology, and building car sensors.

That's an interesting mix :-) So Norgaahl has been around since 2016. How did it all start for you back then?

Michi: Things started quite early. I had played with Anton and a few other guys in a punk band that eventually turned into a metal band. It went relatively well until 2013 when everything fell apart. I also sang in two other bands during that time, but always wanted my own baby where I could realize my own lyrics or something. So we started Norgaahl when Fabi showed up, even though in a different constellation back then.

Fabi: I returned from Sweden to Germany around that time, and was looking for a musical connection again, which had been quite challenging in Sweden btw, despite the many bands there. By chance, I ended up in the same rehearsal space complex as Michi with another band. Eventually, I met him in the subway and said, "Hey, if you ever need a guitarist for a more technical, challenging band, just let me know." And that's how I joined Norgaahl, back in 2016.

The first few years were a finding process, as it usually is. And just when we could have started with a bassist, whom we had finally found at that time, Corona happened. During lockdown, we used an online whiteboard to brainstorm the direction we wanted to take thematically. Up to that point, we had various ideas for lyrics, as it often happens, however we lacked a proper concept. That's when we thought about using Bavarian legends and stories related to the Raunacht (Twelfth Night) as our main theme, especially with the name Norgaahl. 

We had long discussions about whether to sing in German or not, especially considering Michi isn't originally from Bavaria, and decided to translate and embellish the stories in English for a broader audience. Most of these, like the Kraxelmann, are usually just three to five sentences – short stories told to children to instill fear and caution, like "stay home when it's dark, or this and that might happen." We delved into researching Raunacht stories, focusing initially on the Upper Bavarian region.

Lyrically inspired by the often little-known Bavarian tales about devils, death and other tangible tragedies, NORGAAHL share their modern, musical interpretation of these stories through their raw Death Metal sound with a strong technical approach.

That's a broad themes fundus for sure. Since you've already mentioned the name and its local connection: How did you come up with it, and could you explain the meaning for our non-Bavarian readers, please?

Around these parts, a "Norgerl" is essentially the last sip from a glass that nobody wants to drink, so to speak. 

Even before we had this whiteboard concept, we wanted some regional connection. We were grilling in my garden, and wanted something Bavarian for the new name, as we didn't like the old one. After the barbecue, we decided on Norgaahl. I quickly created the first logo myself, and that's how it all started. The main thing was to have something so we could play live.

Cheers on that ;-) You are set to release your new EP “Kraxelmann” on March 22nd. What can you tell us about its artwork, and how does it reflect the stories on the album?

Fabi: The cover artwork has an interesting story. Our former bassist connected us with the graphic artist Andi Drude, who is one of the main game design developers at Ubisoft. He's based in the Ruhr area, but is originally from Bavaria, so he agreed to create something for us. We discussed the concept, song titles, and sent him the lyrics. We told him that the Kraxelmann from the title track should somehow be on the cover, but didn't give him any specific instructions on how it should look. 

Andi came up with the idea for the Kraxelmann to wear a mask, a smiley mask, initially placed because he wasn't sure how to draw the face. We found the idea cool during the concept review, so we kept it. It adds a mystical touch, leaving the question of whether there's a person behind it or not. The overall concept in his digital artwork fits perfectly with our music.

The new logo is also his creation. The most crucial thing for us was that the lettering had to be absolutely readable, regardless of its size. There's nothing worse than having a logo that looks like a tossed heap of twigs. We could have done that in our garden; my son collects sticks like a dog, and our garden is full of them ;-)

Michi: Yes, but I think Andi cursed us a bit because he had other conceptual stories like a logo. So he hastily put together a draft, thinking we would reject it anyway. But we found it super cool, and adding that Perchten face, it fit perfectly :-)

That's qwesome :-) You already talked about the conceptual finding, let's head over to the musical side. Could you briefly describe your writing and recording process, please? 

Fabi: Usually, I write the basic concepts, roughly record them at home, send them out, and then we discuss them - If they like it, it stays; if not, it either goes back to the backlog or is taken to the next rehearsal and worked on. The backlog contains numerous ideas; we could fill entire albums with them ;-)

There have been times when we faced a bit of a standstill because we got stuck in a song, and then we decided to put it aside for a while. At times, Fabi and Anton worked on the songwriting to keep it moving. This way, the skeleton got established, and others contributed to it, creating a balanced approach. This process lead to the creation of different songs.

In the past two years, we've been quite scattered across Bavaria. Only our drummer and I live close to each other, about a 20-minute drive west of Munich. Michi lives in Penzberg, which is not just around the corner, and our other guitarist, Max, resides in Regensburg. It's quite a journey for him. Therefore, I started writing out the sheet music. Bas is doing it too, writing his part when the songs are released. We centralized everything in a drive, and everyone can access it. This way, we can learn the songs, the riffs, beforehand, so we don't have to start figuring things out in the rehearsal room. We simply don't have the time for that – but we've optimized it to fit our schedules.

Totally get that. Your music is best described as raw Death Metal with a technical touch, production-wise rather primal, which fits well to the dark stories you're telling. Where do you see your main influences? 

Fabi: I started my journey into Metal through Nirvana, Motörhead, then Metallica, gradually progressing. My absolute idols are Death and Pantera - They are like the north stars for me, guiding me in songwriting. Especially with newer bands, they are often unattainable, but I enjoy listening to things like Necrophagist, constantly on rotation throughout the year. 

Bas: It's a bit of an exciting challenge when you love music and strive for music that you technically can't play unless you have the means to dive deep. We all have families and regular full-time jobs. So, you can't become a world-class tech-death guitarist because you simply can't practice that much. The challenge in music is probably to bring in the technical aspects within the framework of what we can realistically achieve.

Fabi:  The goal is that our music must be playable live, avoiding the criticism some bands face for creating music only through Guitar Pro and recording it as a Midi file. Otherwise, we might as well make Techno.

Michi: I come from the brutal side; I prefer a slower pace in Death Metal. Right now, I'm wearing my Ahab shirt... 

We have different people in the band. Max, our other guitarist, is a total Iron Maiden fan, which reflects in the music, especially in his solos compared to Fabi's solos. Anton makes his living playing drums. Naturally, he wants to play more challenging things, but always with the compromise that it should also groove.

Fabi usually brings a skeleton for some songs, for the others to tear apart. There's a lot of tension, but that's how good things come out. With Norgaahl, I always feel like we have to clash a bit, and in the end, something good comes out. We are careful to use the term "progressive," but there's a bit of that. You can't deny it. Still, we try to keep it listenable, not just for musicians.

Fabi: That's one of the main reasons for me. When I listen to bands, see them live, or make music myself, it has to groove. It has to make you nod your head. If it doesn't, it's not right yet.

Let's talk about Norgaahl live. What was your most memorable show so far? 

Fabi: Opening Bavarian Battle in 2022 was definitely significant. It was the biggest thing we've played as a band so far. But I also really liked the Schalldruck Festival in Munich, where we played before.

Michi: What I also really enjoyed was our band road trip to Berlin. That has been the farthest we've gone so far.

Fabi: And the first gig that Bas organized was great because the little venue, Sunny Red in Munich, was packed. It was a really good evening. But we also noticed that the bands we played with were somewhat of an older age. There were hardly any kids; maybe three or four, but otherwise, everyone was around our age, 40 plus.

Metal keeps us young ;-) Since we're travelling around the world musically, how would you describe our local Rock & Metal scene, and is there anything special about it? 

Bas: I think the scene here is doing quite well. Considering the very hard, extreme, or challenging music being played, and the fact that many people still go out to listen, is positive. It might not be the '90s where Rock was the big thing, but I believe the various Metal genres that have developed are healthy and active in their own little parallel worlds.

Munich has the advantage that most German or European tours pass through, so we have an excellent offering of cool international bands playing here. I get the impression that the demand is always high. Recently I thought, a month before the show, "I'll quickly get my Meshuggah ticket, but no, it was sold out already.

Michi: We used to have those local 5-euro concerts, but they're gone.

Bas: I think organizing events ourselves works well. I feel that due to Corona, people have become a bit rusty or cautious, but you can do it just like before. There's absolutely no difference, and the local scene only gets what it sets up itself. The more bands organize events, the more small concerts there are. 

Fabi: Another aspect with bands today, the playing is on a different level than in the past. They are technically much better than what we sometimes had before, where we played with some thrashers from Hinterdupfing [German expression for towns far away from major cities], and it was a bit of a mess, sometimes even from ourselves. But it has changed. Constantly recording and presenting videos on social media has pushed people to elevate their own levels.

Absolutely! What can you tell us about your future plans? 

Fabi: On May 2nd, we have our 2nd Bloodshed & Beer event, again at  Sunny Red in Munich. We'll be playing the EP live as well as a few other songs, alongside with Knaat, Asmoday, and Entera from Nuremberg. 

Michi: The focus is clearly on live performances. When Bas joined, he expressed his desire to play live, and we said, "Okay." He took care of arranging gigs, and that reignited everyone's enthusiasm, have expanded our set to over an hour. 

Our second priority is working on the numerous tracks we have in the backlog. We aim to write as many songs as possible simultaneously and get them finished.

Bas: I think the album is already a good topic. Personally, I see it as what sets Metal apart from other music styles. Many artists are moving towards just releasing singles on Spotify regularly, having individual songs rather than albums. But for me, an album is still much more than the sum of its individual songs. It's the beauty of the compilation and how each song is seen in the context of an album, not just as a single somewhere in a playlist. 

With Norgaahl, I've just started, haven't written anything for the EP. This is the first opportunity to get involved in the writing process. For me, it's essential to have a real long player because that's when it becomes something tangible, and the beautiful arrangement of many songs truly comes to light.

Fabi: We also rode the single trend for a while. Before the rebranding, we released four individual songs because we were collaborating with a nice producer, Alex from Pearlsound Studios, in the background. With each single song, we got closer to achieving the sound we wanted. As you mentioned earlier, this raw but technical aspect is always a balancing act for us. We don't want to end up overproduced, where everything is perfectly quantized. But we also don't want the ancient sound. We've agreed to find a middle ground. It should be well-produced; we don't want the obligatory one-microphone-in-the-room-and-good-to-go approach. It should have some impact, but we also want it to be a bit raw.


Before we wrap things up, is there anything else you'd like to add? 

Fabi: If people have more stories like our old Bavarian tales, we'd love to hear them, they can send them to us! We can then turn those stories into lyrics, and will highlight the people who sent us the ideas.

Michi: Maybe even if they come from elsewhere. It doesn't have to be geographically restricted. You have cool stories that you tell your kids to give them a good scare? Feel free to send those our way, we'd love to hear them too. 

Fabi: I've started collecting them as books. I have Nordic, Irish, Scottish, and Saxon stories. It's pretty cool to see the variety of stories out there.

Michi: But there are plenty of Bavarian ones too!

So maybe enough for a double album then? ;-) Thanks a lot for your time, and all the best for the release \m/