Producer: Skyforger
Video clip: The Stone Sentinel
Review: 60/1000 @
Ever wanted to find out what inspired a particular song?

Was it based on personal experience or simply passive observation?

What happened in the recording studio or on stage to make one song sound different from the rest?

These are just some of the question bands and musicians attempt to answer in Line 'em Up - the newest page of The Power Of Metal.Dk.

This is where your favourite bands comment on their albums, track by track, because as someone once said, “Ideas are the building blocks of ideas”.



- The Power Of Metal Webzine -
Skyforger were formed in Riga, the capital city of Latvia, in 1995 and play a vein of music that mixes modern Metal with traditional Latvian elements. The band has played countless niche festivals as well as more ‘eclectic’ festivals such as Hellfest and Summer Breeze Open Air. “Kurbads” is Skyforger’s sixth album.

Here’s a chance for you to tell our readers about your most recent album “Kurbads”. But first, could you please tell us how you think Latvian folk tales differ from, say, Greek or Norse mythology?

Oh man! This could be a theme for dissertation! Folk tales differs from mythology in its core - I think, they are more like fairytales told by the simple folks, whereas mythology are tales about gods made by priests and religious persons. But all in all we share same common things in our Baltic folktales as well as in mythology with all other Indo – European nations. The very core came from the same roots when we were one nation long, long time ago.

But now back to your question. Tale about Kurbads is more related to tales about heroes than mythology, it can be compared to Irish Cuchulain, English Arthur and Knights of the Round Table and German Siegfried and the Nibelungs – they could be called a tales about dragonslayer, a man with unnatural power who fights huge monsters and demons.

Kurbads’ tale was told for generations from mouth to mouth, no one knows who made it - it was written down only in late 19th century, while Greek and Norse ones were known for long times already. Also comparing to Greek or Norse legends our Baltic ones lacks their epicenes due the fact that they were created by simple people instead of skilled bards, writers or poets.
There are more other local differences to be found in Kurbads and Greek or Norse mythology, but I think you get the picture.

The ‘Folk Metal’ epithet is a bit vague when describing a genre. For instance Korpiklaani, the new Cruachan and “Kurbads” are musically quite different. With this in mind, how important is it for Skyforger to be perceived as part of the Folk Metal scene?

I don’t know, I think it is not really important to us. Of course there are some similarities we share with the bands you named and it could be answer why we are put in same “folk” bag, but I don’t think that we clearly belong to folk metal, maybe Kurbads is, but it is an exception due to the theme of the album, though our other albums are more harsher and can hardly bear a folk metal label.
But then again it is true that most of our auditory are those fans who listens to folk metal, but in the end we are doing things what we like and how we like, instead of pleasing as much people as possible to become widely popular.

And now onto “Kurbads”… track-by-track, what inspired you, what topics are you dealing with, what you wanted to express with the songs etc.

As the whole album is one long story, then each song tells its parts.

01. Curse of the Witch

This song tells about how people with their greed and bloodlust awaken ancient evil forces. It also bears subtext which connects whole theme to nowadays and shows us that nothing has changed in nature of the man; the same foul instincts rules the Earth.
I remember that I made intro riff listening to Manowar - I think it was Thor song. Then there comes in one thrash inspired riff as well as main riff on which I sing was taken from band’s archives, from some very old song we had forgotten about already. In the middle of the song there is one heavy riff, started by one guitar which in reality is melody from one of our Latvian folksongs! Yeah, that is what happen when you mess around with folkmusic he he.

02. Son of the Mare
It’s about birth of the Kurbads and his childhood, it tells how he was born from white mare that ate magic pike fish and grew up very fast and became very strong, that he could easily lift huge stones and already went to hunt in his childhood!
There is a chorus riff, which was inspired by early Metallica and main bagpipe melody was inspired by Celtic music – I remember how I wanted to put some Celtic alike melody in my music instead of always used Latvian folk tunes and there it is.

03. The Nine-Headed
It tells about how Kurbads is going to clean new built barn from the evil spirits and finally he must fight many headed ogres every night – starting from three-headed, then six-headed and finally Nine-headed, which was the strongest and deadliest of them all. In Latvian folktales ogres or devils with many heads are very present and mostly the heroes fight them down.

The whole song was inspired by 80’s heavy metal, there is something from AC/DC Hell’s Bells, but again chorus riff comes straight from Latvian folksong!

04. Bewitched Forest
This one tells about how Kurbads went out in the world and rides through bewitched forest and how three witches, wives of killed many-headed ogres, tries to kill him with their witchcraft. Witches turns into many various things and tries to lure Kurbads to his death trap, but he always outsmart them and finally kills them all, except one, who escapes. She was wife of deadly Nine-headed.
This song was inspired by Bathory – I remember we even called that song “bathory” when there were no lyrics still written. Then there were one riff on the second part of the song, composed by our bass player, which in the beginning reminded very much to us Black Sabbath’s Iron Man, but later on luckily we later had idea and changed it to more folkish sounding, though someone can still find some similarities there if they like.

05. In the Yard of the Father's Son
It’s just a short folk song about men who clears his yard from devils. It’s one of those Latvian folksongs, though we tried different approach and instead of leading vocal to sing as always we tried to make him sound more rough and powerful. But lately I remember I read somewhere that for someone it sounded like main singer is drunk!

06. The Devilslayer
It’s a name of Kurbads’ sword which is made for him by blacksmith - Sky Forger. In his pursue of escaping witch, who turned into winged snake and flied away, Kurbads arrived at sea side and met legendary Sky Smith, whom he asked to forge a sword, strong enough and so heavy that only Kurbads to lift it. Blacksmith tries three times and only on third time he was able to make such a sword.

Even if starting riff can remind to someone of the early Helloween, in reality it is pure Latvian folk melody! I remember how still there was no lyrics for this song, guys in band thought that this will be most boring song in album, but in the end it turned into one of the best ones (at least in our view)!
Oh and there is sound of smiting in the middle of the song – we especially went out and recorded the real blacksmith at work. We found that in reality it didn’t sound as powerful as we thought before he he.

07. The Stone Sentinel
Here Kurbads arrives in some distant country where he heard that king’s daughter was kidnapped by some strange devil. He finds out that she was taken into Underworld and only passage there is in some swamp covered by huge stone. Only he who can lift this stone can open a passage downwards. And Kurbads is the man – he easily throws aside The Stone Sentinel and venture down into black hole.

This song was inspired by death metal. Those riffs sounded too death metal for me, that I chose to invited one of my friends, who before sung in local death metal bands as leading vocal. So, we both are doing duet singing. Also I thought that such song will give the whole album bigger variety and be as some surprise.

08. In the Underworld
It tells about what adventures Kurbads experienced in the Underworld on his quest for saving king’s daughter. He killed devils down there, saved the girl, whom he married later, saved nestlings of great eagle from heavy hail and in acknowledgement the great eagle took him out back to Earth.

The main riff of this song was inspired to me from our bands old songs, we made even before Skyforger. The chorus melody is again Latvian folk-tune. The middle part of song can be easily detected to be inspired by Iron Maiden!

09. Black Rider
This one tells about great ogre, called Black Rider, who is going to invade Kurbads’ land and wants to kill him, instigated by infamous Snake Witch. This was mix of various riffs without any special inspirations behind – we just wanted one fast and furious song there, though I remember one riff was stolen by me from Saxon’s Metalhead album. Ahh.. and another riff was inspired by Obituary, the riff at beginning of song. It tells how easily we mix various metal styles in just one song!

10. The Last Battle
It is about final battle between Kurbads and Black Rider and Snake Witch. In the heat of the battle Kurbads manages to strike down Black Rider, but becomes wounded. The Snake Witch flies up to him and spits venom in the open wound on Kurbads’ shoulder. In the end Kurbads raises his left hand and crush the Snake Witch, then raises his right hand and splits the skull of the Black Rider and then weakened by poison he falls down and dies.

Man, who wrote down this tale, added his note at the end of story - that he thinks that end part was made by teller himself, not original, because almost all Latvian folktales always ends with happy ending by hero marrying king’s daughter and then they lived long and happy.

The first part of song is inspired by Latvian folksongs, though all riffs are made by us. In the second you can hear great influence of 80’s heavy metal and final “tragic” outro is Latvian folk melody again. This song was made as last one for this album with clear direction in mind that it will be final song - I tell it because all the rest of song was made without any lyrics and clear concept about what they will be.

11. Kurbads
This is a cover song of local Latvian heavy metal band Opus-Pro made in 1986. It tells about this mythical hero Kurbads and how he will return to help our nation in the fight for our freedom.
We thought it could be great for Latvian people to hear this track in new version - it was done back in 80’s, long time ago and how comparing to this song again is our story about Kurbads.

This song made a lot of misunderstandings, because people always think that this is the title song of album, but it is not. Though we had no chance to change its name and it is how it is.

Tell us a bit about the artwork – for example who made it and what does it represent?

Whole art on album was painted by Mārtiņš Pētersons, who was second guitarist in our band at that time of Kurbads album. He had finished high school of Arts here in Riga and he has own definite style. Though he joined only at the end of recording session, nevertheless he shared enough of his work on album.

I know that many people didn’t liked cover artwork of CD, but for me it is great and portrays precise atmosphere of this story. It reminds me very much of some fairytale books I had read in my childhood. I think people today are easily spoiled by all those great artworks made by artists like Kris Verwimp. Looking at magazines it’s obvious that most of all CD covers looks the same. And that’s why we wanted something different which would stand out.

On very picture you can see the last moment of Kurbads life: he killed the Black Rider, but Snake Witch spits venom in his wound on shoulder. There is withered tree behind him, which separates upper world and Underworld; it is like Kurbads already stepped into realm of the dead!

Any last words you want to round this interview off with?

Thank you for this chance to explain our album – I hope my comments will stimulate someone to buy and listen to this record, which in my view is one of the best Skyforger’s albums!


(as answered by Peter Kvetkovskis – vocals, guitar, folk instruments, warrior voices)


Chris Galea, September 2012