In a year stacked with awesome new releases, Burning Witches’ third album, Witch Of The North, stands out. It’s an epic power metal album that worships the classics – Manowar, Priest, Savatage, to name a few – but puts its own lively spin on things. Recorded and released in the middle of a global pandemic, it provides a fantasy escape from the relentless news cycle and offers listeners a world of swords, sorcery and snow arguably more palatable than the real one. It’s not been plain sailing (by longboat or other means) for the band though, who’ve suffered – like most bands this year – tour cancellations, disruptions to the promo cycle and massive unpredictability. Despite this, they’ve grown a loyal army of fans and gained a ton of great reviews for the record.
This Day In Metal sat down for a catch-up with singer Laura Guldemond to see how things were going and uncover startling facts about her metal heritage. Read on…!
So, Burning Witches have just been on tour again for the first time in a while. How was that, being back onstage?
Yeah, it was nice. It wasn’t, like, a long tour but we just had a few Swiss gigs, not happening too far from each other. That was like the Swiss Domination Tour and very cool, we had a lot of fun seeing all the fans again. It was really necessary because we had so many gigs that got cancelled.
Did you feel like the crowd was more enthusiastic than ever, because it’d been such a long time?
People were definitely really really happy we did the gigs. I think that it’s one of the rare gigs at the moment so people are happy that something is happening. Sadly, we did have to cancel one gig because we had one gig in the UK, in Sheffield…
I know, I had tickets [I am in Sheffield!]…
Yeah, the Vikings Festival. A lot of bands cancelled and we had to cancel too. I don’t know if they had the same reasons but for us it was because it turned out that if we went to the UK we would need to be quarantined when we came back and that wasn’t possible with the other things we had to do. So difficult.
It really is. So, of course, you’re promoting your latest album Witch Of The North at the moment. That’s much more of an ‘epic’ album than Dance With The Devil . It’s got a more storytelling-based approach too. Was this a conscious choice, moving towards that sound, or did it just evolve naturally?
Yeah, we really wanted to do this shift back to another themed album because Hexenhammer  was, of course, about the book where the names of the witches who were to be burned would be written, and stuff like that and now it we thought it would be cool to do Witch of the North. There’d be this setting with snow and a bit of the mystical stuff would be there. It’s like a mystical world but it felt logical to also include Vikings and Druids, you know, in this medieval setting.
There’s a lot of Norse mythology in there. Is that something you’re interested in?
It’s not necessarily something I’m very interested but I’m always really entertained by all the movies and books that are also based on old Norse mythology and legends, which is why I wanted to do something like that.
I totally get that entertainment factor from the album. When I listen to it, I think of, like, epic fantasy battles. If you were leading an army into an epic fantasy battle, which species would your army be?
I think it’d be elves, but I’d also like to get some frost giants in there. I’d like to battle with frost giants. But, then again, I read somewhere in a story that the frost giants were kind of turned into Earth so that would be as big as Earth itself. Which would maybe not be a good idea…
Well, I dunno. You’d certainly win if you had frost giants the size of Earth.
Yeah, maybe we could have like a galactical fight.
I like it. That’s ambitious. You’re taking the fight into space!
So speaking of taking it into space, what’s next for Burning Witches? It wasn’t even a year between Dance With The Devil and Witch of the North, so are we due another album?
Well, we’re thinking of some ideas but they’re not very concrete yet, in terms of when we should record something. We don’t wanna wait too long but first we’d like to try and do some more gigs. So maybe at the end of next year or the beginning of 2023, that would be more logical. I think everyone just wants to play now, as soon as possible. But if something stupid happens and it’s not possible again then we’ll change the plan.
Do you have any ideas for a concept?
We have around three ideas that we could work with… but let’s see what happens. We do love the idea of having a concept though, so we’ll try to do something like that again.
So how did you first get into metal? What was your first experience?
My first experience was Within Temptation, because it was on the radio a lot in the Netherlands, in the late 90s. That’s how I got into contact with metal. I loved that it was a bit more mysterious and dark and that’s what really grabbed me. I wanted to look into more of that kind of music and I went to the record shop, found some Within Temptation but I also found W.A.S.P. and then that took me into a different kind of metal, where I got stuck! I just love melodic metal – heavy metal, symphonic metal, power metal, that kind of stuff.
Obviously here at This Day In Metal, we like to look at dates in history and I can see that this week [w/c 13th December], a lot of big bands had releases, including Motorhead [The World Is Yours], Venom [Welcome To Hell] and Metallica [All Nightmare Long]. If you could choose just one of these three metal titans to accompany you into battle, which would it be?
Oh, this is for the space battle! Well, I always felt like Rob Trujillo from Metallica looks a game character to me, because of his powerful stance and his face. So I want to see him getting ready for battle. I would choose Metallica!
Great answer [laughs]. One of the other things we do here is put a Did You Know fact about the bands we write about, but the commenters tell us the facts are too obvious. So what’s a fact about you and/or Burning Witches that no one will already know?
Okay, I know a very stupid one about myself. I did this DNA test where you can see where you’re from and DID YOU KNOW… I have more Neanderthal variants that 82% of people who took the test with this company. I don’t know how that happened but I feel a little bit like a cavegirl.
I think that’s pretty metal.
Yeah, that is pretty metal. Maybe they should do a test to see if people who like metal have a bigger percentage of Neanderthal in them?
I kinda wanna carry out that study now…
[Laughs] I was really surprised when I read it. I was like “what does this mean? what does it say about me?” but it’s cool. It doesn’t mean I’m like half a Neanderthal or anything – it’s still only a really small percentage of Neanderthal genes. But probably no one else knows that, except for my family.
That’s an awesome fact, thanks.
I’m still trying to think of a Burning Witches fact… Oh! Yeah. We still have to go and play TWO pool parties that we’ve been invited to, one is in Switzerland and one is Spain. You know who you are. Be prepared, we will finally do it!
Pool parties are, uh, less metal than being a cavegirl. But still cool! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. What’s the best place for people to check out your stuff on social media?
You can follow Burning Witches on Instagram but on Facebook you have the option to see all the events and get notifications if there’s a gig in your area so I’d recommend following the Facebook page. Wait… is it Burning Witches Official or 666? [checks] Ahhh! It’s Burning Witches 666! [laughs]
Good stuff. Horns up!!!
YESTERDAY, TODAY, EVERY DAY, HEAVY METAL!
CJ Lines is a metalhead, writer, podcaster, ninja historian, master of K-pop, award-winning pie-maker and unrepentant Six Feet Under fan. Somebody has to be. He’s written two books. He lives in Sheffield, U.K. Read more of his stuff via http://www.cjlines.com/ Follow him on Twitter at @cjlines