METAL DIGGER 4: SIEGES EVEN
Reviewing the discography of legendary bands, we released METAL DIGGER, a new section to remember those glories that contributed to the past sounds and that for various circumstances have been forgotten or were not so popularly known in some places on the planet. Big bandS with excellent musicians, who one day came to the top or not so much and our memory has forgotten. So, if our readers also want to collaborate in the construction of this thread of articles with their memories, they are welcome.
It is also an attempt to bring curiosity on "new" metalheads, or at least make them raise an eyebrow for a while, when they listen to these amazing groups. In front of each album´s name you will see a rating number according to our opinion.
By: Atahualpa- Hummingbird Press Greece
Immerse yourself in the past... In this fourth chapter, we will remember SIEGES EVEN.
Place of Origin : Germany
Genre of Metal : Progressive Rock/Metal
Year of foundation : 1982
SIEGES EVEN was a “family” band, formed by Holzwarth brothers (Oliver and Markus). Back in the beginning of 80's in Munich, Bavaria , these two brothers were influenced by the harder versions of metal at the time (VENOM, Thrash of Bay area and styles alike) and at the age of 15-16 years old, formed the band SODOM. That time they recorded a 3-songs demo. They kept their name until 1985 when, in order to avoid to be confused with the other German thrashers SODOM, changed it into SIEGES EVEN. Next year, 1986, Holzwarth brothers “hired” the members who would make up the band. Their first line up as SIEGES EVEN was:
Franz Herde - vocals
Markus Burchert – guitars
Markus Steffen – guitars
Oliver Holzwarth – bass guitars
Alex Holzwarth – drums
With that line up they recorded their first demo. It was a-5 tracks cassette, 2 of them were instrumental (the second one was a bass solo by Oliver). The next year recorded their second try. It was a bootleg cassette with 3 songs. The first song was “Kristallnacht” (mentioned to the pogrom of Nazi German, on the night of 9th to 10th of November, in Germany and Austria against Jews). The second song, “Tell-tale Heart”, was inspired by the work of the major North – American writer, Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849). That line up had a change, as Markus Burchert didn't participate at the recordings. The music they played was Speed Thrash Metal, which was quite popular at the period of the late 80's, mostly influenced by the U.S. bands. Their third try took just another year. Getting into the Charisma Studios, in Munich and recorded for just one day, they finished their last demo, before their first official full album. With the “Repression and Resistance” album, they continued as a quartet, with one guitar player. The tracks were a foretaste of what would really follow. Same thrashy sound but with guys more experienced and open minded; ready to “embrace” a more intellectual play and freer to compose into unspecified forms.
Using all the 4 songs included in “Repression and Resistance” and recording 3 more songs, at the end of 1988 they were ready for their first album. “Life Circle” (9) released on October of 1988. Recorded at Karo-Musikstudios and having Kalle Traps as a producer, this piece was really great at the sound and was released via Steamhammer, a German label which was subsidiary of SPV. In this first album, SIEGES EVEN stayed true to their Thrash roots. At the same time they“cuddled” their sound with their technical dexterity. The high quality of compositions were been easily performed because of their great technical skills. Following the Thrash “wave” of that period, they kept the strength and speed, the high tone vocals and the duet of Holzwarth brothers (bass guitar and drums) kept working like a Swiss watch. They had all the “nerves” of hot blooded young guys, the spirit of the best Metal period, the technical abilities and top class compositions. The cover of the album showed exactly what the band wanted to play. A brain and a heart connected to the micro-chip of a computer. That's exactly what they were. Passionate and emotional, filtered through a “mechanical way. A kind of music which came of their brain but also expressed through their hearts. The best of the combinations.
For two years the band they played at concerts and prepared their new material. Before their second album they recorded a split up album with the north-American thrashers NAPALM. It was a split cd released by the Japanese Teichiku records. A kind of compilation, with 11 NAPALM's songs and 5 of SIEGES SEVEN's, all of them included in “Lifecycle”. At the same year 1990, they were ready to serve their new material. Between March and April they recorded “Steps” (9) in Lakeside studios, Utting. Their progress was obvious from the very beginning of the album. The first notes encompassed a melodic tune played by a violin and classical guitar. “Alba” was the name of the track; it was just the first of the seven sub-tracks of the song “Tangerine Windows of Solace”. Twenty six minutes of music divided in seven parts. Most of the “rue Metal fans” at that time, were unable to accept the album. Several rhythm changes, “weird” instruments for that genre of Metal (violin), non-typical drum playing (very “fusion/jazz” style”), many changes from electrical to acoustic parts and viceversa. The vocals were one more “instrument” which followed the music. They were mellow and then became harsh. The high toned “Speed Thrash” vocals were absent, probably because there weren't any “Speed Thrash” parts included. The most of the tracks moved between mid-tempo and slower speed. They used to be called more as a fusion/jazz band, with Metal elements, than clearly a Metal band. At the same period, there were many other bands playing this kind of intellectual progressive Thrash or Death Metal (WATCHTOWER, ATHEIST, MEKONG DELTA etc.) but none of them left the “Metal zone” (only many years later, FATES WARNING would give their masterpiece “A Pleasant Shade of Gray” (which again would divide the fans because of the lack of “Metal” tunes). With this album SIEGES EVEN made a seriously sophisticated step towads the renewal of the whole hard music sphere.
Since the beginning of the band, this was the first time they replaced a member. Franz Herde left the band and was replaced by Joachim Kaiser. The change was exactly what the band really needed. Only a year later after their second album the material for the third one was already composed. Recorded in AHA studios in Munich, again via Steamhammer label, they gave birth to “A Sense of Change” (9). The suspicions of many Metal fans about the direction SIEGES SEVEN were about to follow, here became real. The word “metal” didn't exists anymore. The 70's progressive rock together with fusion/ jazz sounds and compositions deluged the album (listen “Change of Seasons”, with just 4 violins and the amazing voice of Kaiser). One thing which was mentioned before was Kaiser's voice. A more experienced singer who mostly sang on theatrical acts, with softer texture of voice but at the same time longer distance on octaves, fit exactly to the new direction of the band. The harsh, 100% metal, siren screaming “color” of Herde's voice was past for them. They didn't want to try to prove anything with any complex plays. They kept themselves controlled, without trying to show off their skills. Someone could say that “everything rolled normally”, without any surprises (for them). What was “normally” for SIEGES SEVEN? Their compositions and performance were something which appeared in the album without any “strength”. Exactly like “Change of Season” SHOULD BE their next natural step. Like everybody were expecting from them to show that specific album. And it was so well composed and played that proved what a big band they were . Once more, another band started from the Metal area and evolved to an amazing band (for those who have any “objections”, just listen to the song “Epigram for the Last Straw” to see which band's sound DREAM THEATER have “stolen”) .
At the beginning of 1992 and for the next six months the band toured in whole Europe. After the last concert in Wiesbanded, Germany, Markus Steffen, the remaining original guitarist decided to leave the band for personal reasons. For almost 3 years after their tour and 3 from their third album, SIEGES SEVEN were “silent”. It was 1995 when they decided to move on with their next work. Holzwarth brothers replaced Steffen with Wolfgang Zenk , a virtuosi jazz/fusion guitarist and for the needs of their new album, they hired Greg Keller on vocals. “Sophisticated” (7) was released under their own record label Siege and recorded at Kai Hansen's studio in Humburg. Besides the main members of the bands also helped Sascha Paeth (HEAVENS GATE, LUCA TURILLI, AVANTASIA) on keyboards (even though his main instrument was the guitar) , Michahel Rodenberg (Miro) (AVANTASIA, TRILLIUM) on keyboards too. At the same time, Kaiser wasn't completely absent, as he helped in the lyrics and Charlie Bauerfeind made the production and mastering (a cooperation which started from “Steps”).
The band remained a surprise for the Metal fans. While everybody was waiting SIEGES SEVEN to follow a progressive rock style, they ended up hardening their sound recording a “Metal album” with up tempi tracks. Rhythms were faster and the guitar of Zenk sounded much harder and virtuosi. They still had many changes at the rhythms and the melodic parts, but the albums belonged to the “Metal zone”. Great help was the sound of Keller's voice, too. Less theatrical and much harder, “straight to your face”, fitted to their new tracks. That time the band decided to introduce a whole different work, which wasn't completely a different sound. For the first time the length of the music “touched” the hour, which was the biggest one ever recorded. There were less “experimental” elements than ever before and the band focused mostly on their executed skills. There were many parts that reminds us “Power Metal” (probably because of Paeth) and Zenk gave a true “guitaristic seminar”. The album is really good but didn't sound much like a typical SIEGES EVEN´ album. There were some nice and catchy tracks, difficult parts, a good performance but there was a lack of inspiration and experimentation. The same reasons which nominated them as a great band and pioneers of the progressive genre.
The band kept remaining productive and two years after “Sophisticated”, they released “Uneven” (7). That album walked the same “path” as the previous one. A progressive album, with some “Power Metal” strokes. Wolfgang Zenk, once more, “served” the band and offered the best of his skills. Metal soli with a feeling of “neo classical” sound. At the same time the band introduced as their main member, the brother of their singer, Greg Keller, Bjork Keller, as a keyboardist. Holzwarth brothers kept the high level of the compositions and execution (even though in some parts drums can be heard much more “Power Metal” than should be). In total the album moved a bit more to the area of “Power Metal”, with melodic and teutonic melodies, without losing completely their progressive “sensation”.
The following years were kind of strange for the band. They kept inactive for a long time, without announcing any future plan for the band. At the same time, and as long as the band was “on hold”, Holzwarth brothers toured together with EMERSON, LAKE and PALMER. They also recruited other bands (Oliver Holzwarth played to BLIND GUARDIAN and Alex Holzwarth to RHAPSODY) but this wasn't something they really wanted. They had their own band and a specific vision about music. At 1999 the Holzwarths united with Markus Steffen and started to plan their next steps. It had been already 6 years apart but that didn't stop them from start playing together and compose like they used to do in their first years. With many thoughts about continue under the same mane or they were about to get renamed, they decided to be called LOOK-GLASS-SELF. Their major problem was the singer as nobody really fitted to what they wanted to play. They already had a song ready, “Equinox”, and were preparing the rest of the material. It was the time when there were rumors about Andre Matos joining them. This wasn't wrong, as they recorded a 4-songs demo to Weltraum studios, in Munich. The album was acoustic: classical guitars, acoustic bass guitar, drums played with “brushes” and not sticks and a piano. It was actually a “try”, a “pre-electric” shot. A try about how songs would sound before they were about to record with electric instruments. The whole thing didn't fulfilled as Matos was never considered as a “full member”. The reason was that he used to participate in different projects, bands and solo works. But this didn't stopped the band from keeping in the composition and planning for future material.
While they were looking for a permanent lead singer, they “fell over” Arno Menses. Menses was a drummer, doing a lot of backing vocals but Holzwarths and decided to “baptize” him as a lead singer. It was 2002 and they had couple of songs ready for him. They recorded a 2- songs demo under the name VAL'PARAISO, with the title “Footprints of Angels”. The project didn't “last for long” as their new music sounded like the original SIEGES EVEN sound. They “grabbed” their name back and started tO “re-build” the project. Their first reunion concert was in Headway festival in The Netherlands and was followed by one more concert in Frankfurt. The band was ready to present their new songs. After 8 years of work, they had their new material recorded with their original name. “The Art of Navigation By the Stars” (9) was a typical SIEGES EVEN album. Recorded and mixed by Uwe Lulis at Black Solaris studio in Frankfurt, the band wanted to send a signal of “we have returned to stay”. That was an album which reminded everybody why they have been considered one of the best at their times. There we hear the exact “recipe” which launched them to the stars. The first and very serious change was the fact they left behind the “Power Metal” sound (and probably responsible for this “change” was the effect of Markus Steffen). Menses' vocals were so melodic as the band really needed. Alex's drum playing reminded his inspired first days, Steffens performance kept the balance between “I play exactly what I have to” and “look what I am doing” and Oliver's bass playing used to give the “depth” of the sound needed. With that albu, the modern, progressive rock stated “here we are”. SIEGES EVEN represented somehow all the lack of appreciation of progressive bands which balanced between the rock and metal sounds like FATES WARNING or SPOKES BEARD. Also the band, in some way, gave “credits” to FATES WARNING, as the entire album was actually one song, divided on tracks, exactly like “Pleasant Shade of Gray”. The group experimented with sounds and after many years let themselves free to “fly” and get inspired, moved by their own true nature. And the album was EXCELLENT exactly because they were, again, true to themselves.
For many magazines and web pages “The Art of Navigation....” was named as one of the most important “come backs” in Metal music. The band received such a feedback from the press and the audience which “energized” them to work harder and faster. That time neither they let the time, nor focused on different projects. At 2007 they released their last album, till now, “Paramount” (9). This one, like “The Art of Navigation...” have was released by the German, InsideOut records. By keeping the same line up, the things were easy. They didn´t do anything different compared to their pervious album. Same inspired melodies and a blend of progressive rock and Metal. The sound was perfectly clear, exactly as it had to be for such a genre of music and every little detail was able to be heard and appreciated. The tracks were impregnated by the prog sound but in moments sounded more “straightforward”. Stated clearly the main melody and the vocal melodies were much more “catchy” and easy to be sang. Another masterpiece after a masterpiece.
A year later they released their only live album (“Playgrounds”) and at the same year,2008, SIEGES EVEN disbanded. The reasons were musical differences. Markus Steffen and Arno Menses found SUBSIGNAL, a progressive metal band (a harder version of SIEGES EVEN while Holzwarth brothers founded BRUTAL GODZ.
BOTTOM LINE : SIEGES EVEN used to be one of the best and most influential bands that ever appeared on Metal music. Their ability to easily compose and playe such high rate of difficult tracks made them gain a reputation as great musician. The fact EMERSON, LAKE and PALMER, decided to play with them, is just the proof from what everybody knew at the Metal scene. Holzwarth brothers and their “crew” never disappointed the good listeners and the open-minded audience. Dive into their music, listen carefully their plays and let yourself “navigate” to the starts. They know exactly where to lead you to.
A SENSE OF CHANGE (1991)
THE ART OF NAVIGATING BY THE STARS (2005)