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ALMANAC - Interview with Victor Smolski
By Wojtek Gabriel,
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Almanac power metal band
I assume most of our readers know who Victor Smolski is, but how many of you have followed his work since his departure from the German legends Rage? The Belarusian guitar virtuoso decided not to take any breaks and put together Almanac, a symphonic power metal outfit fronted by three amazing singers: Andy B. Franck (Brainstorm), David Readman (Pink Cream 69) and Jeannette Marchewka, known for her work with the Lingua Mortis Orchestra. This truly international line-up have recently put out “Kingslayer”, a heavier and less progressive follow-up to their highly acclaimed debut release, which also was the first subject we touched on.
Your new album seems to be heavier, more aggressive and a bit less progressive than your debut release. Was it the direction you set out in or did it just work out this way?
After the release of "Tsar" album we did a lot of live shows. We did two tours with more than 50 concerts, from small clubs to huge festival stages. And all this live experience we put in the new album. The sound became heavier, the songs faster and with more energy. We’ve learned a lot in the last few years what fits us better and which songs are working live better.
Were you the sole composer of all music this time around again?
Yes, I was. After long tour I directly started to compose new material. And this time it was even faster than in the last album. I ́m totally happy about new songs. With “Kingslayer” I had a lot of time in studio without pressure and made a lot of experiments, tried many different arrangements and was looking for great powerful sound. After fantastic feedback of “Tsar” I wanted to make the new album even better and more interesting.
You wrote a lot of stuff for Rage but I don’t think you were free to write whatever you wanted in that band. So, how different is the song-writing process in Almanac, where you’re the boss?
I was totally free to compose what and how I wanted during my Rage time. This has been always important for me in all bands, where I was a member. I never did any compromises in all my career, not for big names, not for big money. I just want to play music which I like and do this the best I can. The last years in Rage became routine and it was no progress in this band. I want to play with professional musicians and learn how to make music more interesting. With Almanac I don’t have any limitation and can try anything I want.
If you don’t mind me asking, what were the reasons behind your departure from Rage? Are you still on good terms with Peavy?
It is no secret that in the last few years in Rage I was not happy anymore with how things went down. I was mostly alone when it came down to creative things, we did not rehearse anymore, and the overall feeling just was not right anymore. All the fun and the great energy we once used to have was gone. So, after a while I came to a point where I was really unhappy and where it was time for a new start. When I decided I would leave Rage, it was obvious that there would be something new coming. There were several ideas for concepts, but what I really wanted to do was not any kind of project, but a real band, with friends and excellent musicians, where I would have the chance to make music without any compromises and have a lot of fun and enjoy doing so again. Sometimes Peavy and I meet on festivals, for example on Masters Of Rock he watched the entire show from stage.
Was the recording process any easier this time round? I mean you’ve had the time to properly gel together now?
I don ́t like to make demos and use modern technology. I like the rock ’n’ roll feeling and I need live sound to feel the songs. We meet with all band members in our rehearsal room and rock until we find right arrangements. Later in studio we try sometimes some things and make experiments. It ́s really a long process till we get final mix. I think “Kingslayer” has a very cool mix of different metal styles and this makes the album very interesting. I didn ́t have time pressure and took the time I needed. This was more relaxed than for “Tsar” CD.
Andy and David wrote lyrics about history, royalty, fighting for power etc. again, like the lyrics for the previous album. Was it your idea or did you just give them a free hand?
Andy wrote four, David four and Jeannette one song. My request for the singers was to go the same way as we did by “Tsar”. I like very much historical stuff and I give the guys some examples, but they compose lyrics like they want. I think that it ́s always the best way, when singers compose the lyrics.
You shot a video clip for “Losing My Mind”. Would you say it’s the most representative song from the set? If not, why did you pick this one to promote the album with?
I think it ́s a very special song with mix of different styles of Almanac. Groovy, powerful arrangement with unique vocal mix make the song very interesting. We had never done something like this before and we were very happy with the result. For me it ́s very difficult to say which song is the best from “Kingslayer”. They are all my babies.
As far as I’m concerned, the first album was recorded in eight different studios, as crazy as it sounds. Was it the case this time round too?
For the the last 15 years I ́ve produced all CDs by myself, but I ́m always looking for some great sound engineers. Andreas is definitely one of them! In his studio, I like the great mix between old analogue equipment and high tech. You can always find the right sound for each song. I can ́t remember when I had so much fun in studio. I ́ve just recorded orchestra in Minsk/Belarus. The rest we did in Heyday Studios in Wuppertal.
How did you decide on choosing those three singers for the band, and why three of them and not just one as is the case with the majority of metal bands?
Four years ago I had the idea to produce Lingua Mortis Orchestra CD with more than one lead singer. This experiment was really interesting for me, because to compose songs for many singers you have the chance to make it very interesting and get a lot of dynamic. You can use different voices for different characters and the mix of three voices like I did in Almanac makes the vocal sound really unique. I get from David, Andy and Jeannette everything I need. To have all these vocals opportunities makes composing process without compromises. You don’t need to think about range or some limitation for one singer. They all have three different styles, but at the same time fit perfectly together. For me it ́s really fun to work with many singers.
I’m wondering, being as an accomplished virtuoso as you are, do you play solos in the live setting note for note as on the albums, or do you sometimes improvise?
First of all I like to improvise and when I hear the final mix sound from the whole song, I get the best ideas. I like to push myself to the limit and try to get the best feeling for the song. Normally I play studio versions during live performances, but sometimes I like to do small improvisations. That makes the concerts more alive.
Time to wrap up. You guys are touring Russia again beginning of 2018, but do you have any other plans for Almanac? Are you doing any summer festivals? Is there any interest from the UK promoters?
To support the release, we did a couple of headliner shows in Russia and we’re planning a long European tour in spring and we’re planning to do 3 shows in the UK.
Interview by Wojtek Gabriel

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Tags: Almanac, power metal, Victor Smolski, Kingslayer
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© 1997-2019 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations
or corporations without the prior written permission.