The sophomore album of the German melodic power metal outfit MENTALIST is really a true contender for album of the year in the given genres. Peter Moog (g) gives us an insight into the band and into how the record was made as well at what it takes to establish a new band these days. This band rocks the scene with their extremely melodic but in-depth songs and will definitely become a solid name of the genre. A very pleasant and informative talk was about to embark on a rainy autumn’s day…
Hand on heart…what bothers you more these days? Being proud of a really fantastic melodic power metal album or the frustration about missing the German charts. As far as I know, it has been very close…
To be honest, we are nothing but proud of the album. Charts are more or less a marketing issue these days and do really not display the quality of a record in my opinion. So it’s more important to have a great album and that’s what we think we have achieved.
Absolutely! How and when did the new album come into being and what was different in the process of making the record? The debut is still pretty fresh to me as it is roundabout one and a half year old…
Well, obviously nobody knew the band when we started with the debut. Now we had lots of material to be recorded and knew each other better than when we did before album number one. One the one hand we had our influences and on the other hand fans, press and basically everybody tried to put us into certain categories. With this new album, people out there have heard us before, know the singer and basically all processes concerning the band, the songwriting, the production have been smoother as we really got to know each other. I guess you can hear that. The two guitarists do most of the songwriting in this band, and I do probably the biggest part of it. But: The others put the cherry on the cake, if you know what I mean…this is very important! Everybody contributes to this band. This why we sound the way we do…
Is there a key song on the album?
I think the whole album is quite strong, I guess, so it’s hard to pick a single song. It’s like choosing one child over the other. It’s often the case that if you are used to listen to metal you are more likely to get the melodies. If you are not used to it, probably the fast drums prevent you from understanding what a song is like. I am a full time musician for like three years now and worked in IT before that, so I am able to play a song like I would love to hear a song as a fan. I think this is quite cool because I know what a song should sound like as I have a rather free approach which includes maybe recreating something that might exist in a similar way at times. But hey, this is what we like, this is our style. We do not need to be different just for the sake of being different and I think our taste is also what fans of the genre like.
The song title “Dentalist“ is actually quite strange, ha ha…
Yeah! We wanted to have something that rhymes on “Mentalist“, the band’s name, and somebody joked around and here we are. Obvious choice, I guess… We wanted to bring out a song for Halloween and then we just wrote it.
My favorite at the moment is “An Ocean So Deep“. What can you tell me about that very song?
Oh, the ballad…ha ha. It deals with the evolution. Lyric-wise that songs goes deep, too. We wrote the song while watching the ocean, no joke! We were in Naples, Italy at he time. The song wrote itself more or less…
“Soldier Without A War“ is also a very impressive song, too. What is it actually about, Peter?
One of the songs we are especially proud of. Its message is pretty simple. We wanted to have a look on conspiracy theories which are very present this days. I’m definitely on the side of science and don’t really accuse someone or preach in any way. Our goal was not to divide into good and bad as people who believe in those conspiracies think they are right and you have to take it seriously up to a certain point. But they sometimes lead a war that actually doesn’t exist, so we called them soldiers without a war. The song musically is not really a power metal song but rather influenced by bands like Fates Warning and at the end of the day only the chorus is typical of our genre.
And then there a pretty surprising cover version of Neneh Cherry’s song “Manchild“… How on earth does a power metal band decide on doing a cover of that song. I’m not into rap music at all but the original record is the only rap album in my entire collection. It’s an amazing song…
I as a musician more or less only look at songs not in terms of genres but I look at the twelve notes that there are and how they interact. No matter if classic music, jazz or whatever. I think “Manchild“ is simply stated a great song whatsoever. We use a real drum-kit whereas the original uses a drum machine. I think we added a soul to it. And our singer Rob, who always does lots of different covers on his YouTube-channel, can almost sing everything. He’s amazing! We didn’t have to convince him at all to do it.
Will there be live shows? Of course, when possible again…
Yeah, we are booking shows, festivals and trying to catch a fitting tour for us at the moment. It should all make sense, of course. But Mentalist will be out on tour next year for sure. The problem is the planning of a new tour because everybody is determined to play all the rescheduled shows from last year… But we are planning a short run of like ten shows for the summer right now, probably in June. Watch out for news!
The artwork – done by the great Andreas Marshall – is beyond cool. It would look even more fantastic on vinyl…
Yes, we will definitely release a vinyl in the future. Due to manufacturing shortages and huge demand for vinyl in general, our first vinyl will come out a little later. Next time, with record number three, they hopefully come out at the same time. This time we didn’t want to wait for the vinyl but like I said, next time! And maybe we are able to release the first two albums on vinyl at some point. We talk about it but have to see whether it makes sense or not. It is true, people might sometimes stream the songs or listen digitally but if you want the whole picture so to speak you need at least the CD to fully experience the artwork. Vinyl would be even better, of course.
And then there is the really cool limited boxset that you put out containing lots of gimmicks including a little Mentalist board game! How did you come up with that idea, actually?
We wanted to do something special. Although we did make a minor mistake in calculating the manufacturing costs we put out a limited number. It’s special as you said and we are proud of it. It’s worth all the effort. Actually I saw the idea of a board game at another band and I said that we need to do it as well. The original idea of doing a box was to give something nice and beautiful to our hardcore fans who support us literally from day one. We are a band that definitely wants to grow and extend our fanbase. So this is a thank you to those who support us big time.
The drummer is Mentalist is none other than Thomen Stauch, formerly of Blind Guardian. As far as I know he had a few health issues some years ago.
Thomen is absolutely in shape and plays fantastically. Sometimes you even have to calm him down a little bit. I am a hundred percent sure he will be great on tour.
There are some remarkable guests on the album….
Yes, for example Henning Basse on background vocals who I consider one of the best vocalists in the genre for a long, long time. I would even consider myself a fan. He might not have been in a huge band so far but he would definitely deliver all the quality to do so. Or take Mike LePond of Symphony X, who actually is a huge power metal fan although he usually plays rather progressive and complex sounds. Our good friend Alex Landenburg of Rhapsody Of Fire and Kamelot connected us with him because he knows Mike pretty well. We are lucky to have such great and talented players on the album.
Where do you personally come from in terms of music? You said that you started to play professionally not that long ago but I guess playing power metal can’t be a coincidence, right?
No, my first musical love was actually Mike Oldfield and I always loved his sense for melodies. And in power metal in my opinion you find lots of great melodies, too. Iron Maiden, Blind Guardian, Hammerfall, Helloween, Sonata Arctica and the likes where the next logical steps for me. But I think there has been a creative low point from like 2005 on where for some years not really much happened in terms of essential stuff in the genre. Rhapsody gave some impulses but I got stuck with the classics and at some point decided to play that kind of music myself. The initial idea was to create an album I would like to listen to. Simple fact but true. This is how I started the band.
Is there anything you would like to add, Peter?
Well, thanks a lot for paying attention, thanks a lot for listening to our music. See you all on tour hopefully. And to be honest, coming from a totally different kind of job, the IT sector and start-ups in IT, I am deeply impressed about how much love and feedback you get playing this kind of music. Actually, like I said, I started this band to do something I myself like. You get lots of positive feedback and power from fans who like what you do. This is amazing and I am eternally grateful for that. Heavy metal fans are really crazy. And people like you who support the scene by doing interviews and so on and spread the word are fantastic, too. I promise that we will make an even stronger album next time. Take my word. Thank you all very much! We truly appreciate all the support!
Thank you, Peter!
Text: Martin Stark
Pictures: (c) Mentalist