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Interview with Ironsword


Last Updated on 07:10 PM by Lilliana Tseka

The triumphant return of the Portuguese with the magnificent None But The Brave album was undoubtedly the event of the year for the Epic metal underground. Ironsword continues to gain momentum showing more appetite than ever. Metal Invader takes the opportunity for a long all-inclusive discussion with Tann, creator and mastermind of the band.

Hello Tann, how is everything going?

Everything’s going fine, thanks for asking. I apologize in advance if I get too carried away during the interview! HeavyMetalReMounia!!!!!!!!!!!!

Before we begin, give me a brief bio of the band, for those who are not familiar with Ironsword.

We play raw epic Metal, most commonly labeled as Barbaric Metal. IRONSWORD was formed in 1995 and started initially as a one man band. Between 1995 and 1998 two demo tapes were released. IRONSWORD became a power trio just before we got signed to THE MISKATONIC FOUNDATION label and released our debut in 2002, followed by our 2nd album “Return of the Warrior” in 2004. Then, we changed label, signed a deal with SHADOW KINGDOM RECORDS and released our 3rd album “Overlords of Chaos” in 2008 and our 4th album “None But the Brave” in 2015. There were several line up changes in between and in 20 years of existence we’ve managed to play live with several cult bands in countries like Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, England and Portugal.

Going back, what are your thoughts today about the time after your departure from Moonspell and the first days as a one man effort with Ironsword?

Honestly, I really thought that I was kind of wasting my time and energy playing in bands where I was just a simple musician which had no control over other things and I was holding back a longtime wish of mine. I had this “IRONSWORD” thing in my head kind of germinating for years.  When I decided to start the band and playing traditional Heavy Metal, doing everything by myself, it was a new exciting experience for me and I was in control of everything if you know what I mean. Of course it was very hard, I couldn’t find other musicians to have a stable line up, and everything was done on my spare time. Besides, the sound of IRONSWORD was way different than all those bands popping up from the so called power Metal trend in the mid-90s. You know, I was not too fond about using a drum machine on the first demo, that’s why I played drums myself on the second demo, badly, but I tried.  Because of my limited playing, the songs were much more into SAXON, MAIDEN, PRIEST. Also, I was not too pleased with my clean singing. I’ve always tried to be in key and in tempo, but I simply couldn’t sing like Eric Adams, Dickinson or Halford, so I decided to change into something more raspy and gruff, which I felt more comfortable, and suited better our style. It was a slow development, but all that helped me forge this raw epic metal style so typical of IRONSWORD. Our own sound! Even with all the obvious musical influences and inspirations. Sure it was hard in the beginning, I’m not complaining, in fact without pain, no gain. I know several bands that went through the same process and experience. Those were the days of high adventure, as I now call it. I have great memories and I am very proud of what I achieved in the first years. Fortunately, in the beginning, there were always people from fanzines that believed in our music and always gave me total support!

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How does the Portuguese underground metal scene stands today in comparison with the mid ‘90s?

There’s a huge difference in my humble opinion. In the mid 90s almost everyone was into Death or Black Metal, and just a couple of Metalheads were into more traditional underground Heavy Metal. Not much people were into tape trading or buying fanzines. Nowadays there’s a lot more open minded people supporting and wanting to know more about old forgotten underground Heavy Metal bands, but new bands as well that follow the same oldschool tradition. There’s a lot more quality bands, more people going to live shows, so things in general have changed for better and it’s developing in a good way. We have much more support for this kind of music nowadays, at least people show a bit more respect.

Overlords Of Chaos was released 7 years ago. What were the reasons that delayed the release of the fourth Ironsword album?

The main reason was because of health problems which knocked me down a bit and took me way longer than I expected to be on the right track again. Then all delays were about schedule issues. I had to recruit new members, showing them the new songs, getting the right budget from the label, trying to book the right studio with the available budget, then record, mix and master the album, working on the cover and all artwork etc. Everything took it’s time and I didn’t want to rush things. Composing songs for the album was the easier part, believe me. Anyway, to clear things up once and for all, IRONSWORD never officially split up!

I’ve got to congratulate you once more for the greatness of None But The Brave. The more I listen to it the more I believe that this album will stand the test of time. Tell me a few words about the writing and recording process. How different was the overall experience between this album and the ones in the past?


Thanks for the kind words! It’s too early to say, let’s hope and see if it will stand the test of time or not! I started composing new songs while I was still doing the mixing and mastering for “Overlords of Chaos” album and since that album was very challenging and ambitious, but very demanding, I wanted to relax a bit more this time, so my main goal was to write something more uniform, direct, raw, more in your face if you know what I mean and less complex than “Overlords of Chaos”.  The idea was to create something that could be seen as the missing link between our debut and “Return of the Warrior”. If you listen to “Burning Metal and the outro and then listen the intro and “Forging the Sword” you’ll get the whole idea. As for the writing process, I always try to give a different approach of our style in every release. To re-invent ourselves not recycle.  But I like to do often stuff out of the norm instead of the usual songwriting standards. Stuff like “The Usurper”, stuff like “Eye for An Eye” which has a more CIRITH UNGOL, BLACK SABBATH feeling or “The Shadow Kingdom”. We have done in the past stuff which had a more CANDLEMASS vibe, or songs like “Legions” or “Death Or Glory” which were very Thrashy like old SLAYER. You have songs like “None But the Brave” which is the same guitar riff from start to finish, how basic can you get? There are more clean vocals on the new record than any of the previous albums, even high pitched screams, which we haven’t done for quite some time! If I recall, the first songs to be composed were “None But the Brave”, “Kings of the Night” and “Calm Before the Storm”. The last song to be finished was “Ring of Fire”, but that song seemed cursed. There were 3 versions of that song. The first version was 10 or 15 minutes length. I then cut it to 5 minutes, and then finally cut it again to 2 or 3 minutes. It was a really good song but always felt it was out of context from the rest of the material on “None But the Brave”. One day, in just 5 minutes I re-wrote the entire song and adapted the lyrics to this new version, the final one which is on the album. As for the recording process, we had a great time in studio, everything went down very smoothly and it was a great experience once again. There was really no big difference between the new album and the previous ones.


There are also changes in the lineup, tell me more about that.

Whenwewererecording “Overlords of Chaos” I knewitwasthelast time I wouldworktogetherwiththat line up. I justsawitcoming. Therewas no badbloodbetweenus, butthefactisthattheothermembershadtheirownbands, so for me thechoicewasobvious. Lateron, JoãoMonteiro was the first one I invited to play in the band. He’s a drum teacher, so he was for me the right choice to fill the job behind the drum kit. Fortherecordings of “NoneButtheBrave”, he wrotealldrumpartsonseveral musical staffs, so itwas quite funnytowatchthat! I was amazed with his drum work on the album. I alsoinvited Aires, thebassplayer of MOONSPELL, I knowhimforyears, he’sverymuchintoSpanish Heavy Metal like BARON ROJO, OBUS, ANGELES DEL INFIERNO, SANTA, MURO etc. In fact he eventook a promophotoforthealbumwearing a BARON ROJO T-Shirt! Hisbassworkonthealbumisenormous! He brought a lot of IRON MAIDEN and BLACK SABBATH intooursound. Duetohisprofessionalcommitmentswith MOONSPELL, he couldnotbecome a permanentmember of IRONSWORD. So, right after the recordings of “None But the Brave” Jorge Martins joined the band. He’s very talented and he comes from a popular Portuguese Thrash Metal band from the 80s called MERCILESS DEATH. So, with all this being said, “None But the Brave is our 4th album, JoãoMonteiro is the 4th drummer in the band, and Jorge Martins the 4th bass player in the band!

Many fans believe that this album is your best effort to date. Now that None But The Brave is released, what are your thoughts considering its content? Is there anything that you would change in terms of sound, compositions etc.?

If you ask me, it’s hard to pick my fave IRONSWORD album because I like them all. Besides, they all have a special and important spot in the band’s history. I am very proud of this new album. I am extremely pleased about the production and about how everything turned out. The sound engineer understood perfectly the vision I had in mind for this album. There is nothing I would change! So far, “None But the Brave” has been getting really great reviews everywhere and the feedback we got so far from our die hard supporters has been quite overwhelming as well. Some of our followers point out “Return of the Warrior” or “Overlords of Chaos” as their fave, others already point out “None But the Brave” as their fave. Also,I have the impression that some people were kind of disappointed with the new album, even if they like it. Probably due to high expectations, they thought that the next step for the band was to make “Overlords of Chaos” part II and its somehow understandable. I also have my JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN fave albums and I wish they kept recording similar albums over and over! Honestly to me the most important matter is the ability to continue creating good quality Heavy Metal music that people feel it’s exciting, refreshing and interesting without repeating ourselves.

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What is your definition of Epic metal music? Why do you think this particular metal genre is pretty much a love or hate situation?

Epic Metal music was never too popular compared to other genres. In fact, it has a limited appeal niche. It was always a bit misunderstood and scorned. The good thing about Epic Metal music is the diversity, you have bands like MANOWAR, OMEN, MANILLA ROAD, CIRITH UNGOL, MEDIEVAL STEEL, THUNDER RIDER, DARK QUARTERER and they all sound different, they all have their own style. Even 70s stuff like RUSH, SIR LORD BALTIMORE, URIAH HEEP, LEGEND have great epic pieces. Most of these epic Metal bands are still unknown in the whole metal community.  You witness the devotion of newer bands, sounding reminiscent to the early days of Heavy Metal, following the footsteps of their inspiring idols.  I’m not talking about unoriginal clone bands, but rather bands that try to have their own epic sound and pay tribute and homage to the legends. This is pretty good for all newcomers because they will have the chance to learn more about the musical history of past bands

What inspires you music and lyric-wise? Of course Manilla Road and Robert E. Howard played a huge role, but other than that, what bands and authors laid the foundations of Ironsword’s philosophy?

Well, the list is huge…OMEN, TYRANT, CIRITH UNGOL, BROCAS HELM, EXCITER, TANK, ANGEL WITCH, RUNNING WILD, MANOWAR, IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, BLACK DEATH, SAINT VITUS, SAVAGE GRACE etc.etc. the list goes on. As for the lyrics, I can say authors like H.P.Lovecraft, Clive Barker and Michael Moorcock; Nietzsche’s philosophy; historical and archaeological books about ancient civilizations. That pretty much sums it up…a bottle of Jack Daniels or Southern Comfort may help sometimes as well.

There are some people that think that Ironsword’s sound is too similar to Manilla Road. Do you think that it was a mistaken choice for them to connect you that much with this band?

They are totally right! I’ll be honored if someone claims that we are the Portuguese MANILLA ROAD! I never denied that MANILLA ROAD is our biggest influence and inspiration, but I don’t consider IRONSWORD a MANILLA ROAD clone. They are a unique band so therefore they cannot be copied. I don’t see too many bands trying to copy MANILLA ROAD! Inspired yes, but not copying it! For example, in the mid 90s, everyone was ripping off HELLOWEEN and BLIND GUARDIAN to the point that became hard to recognize who was who. Back to your question, although we don’t deny our musical influences I believe we’ve managed to create our own sound and style, to have some personality and charisma that can be easily recognizable.

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Apart from heavy metal are there any other music genres that you enjoy listening to?

I like listening to some classical music, especially Wagner. Some 70s stuff like RUSH, HAWKWIND, SIR LORD BALTIMORE, BLACKFOOT, TIGER B. SMITH, BUFFALO from Australia, LEGEND “From the Fjords” album. But I listen mostly to Heavy Metal. Nowadays, I am “forced” to listen to a lot of kid’s music as well because of my younger daughter!

After 20+ years in the epic metal underground and taking into account the revival of the genre and the “sudden” interest of old and new record companies how do you see the evolution of the epic sound?

I really don’t know because we’ve never been involved in the revival of the genre. I’ve always focused on the music and that’s what matters to me. I’ve witnessed all this sudden interest from labels and media before and usually trends easily come and go and only those who play from the heart and soul always stand out in the end. So, I believe as soon as this “hype” thing cools down, everything will turn back to normal again.

Any new bands that caught your attention?

Well, I really liked THE UNHOLY from my country. I also enjoyed the latest albums of SACRAL RAGE, VISIGOTH, TERMINUS and SAVAGE MASTER.

What is the importance of performing your material live? Any plans for upcoming live shows? Of course your return to Greece after many years for the Up the Hammers festival of 2016 is much anticipated.

We have several shows booked in Heavy Metal Fests for 2015 and 2016. Most of the shows are in Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and I really would like to play in other countries we haven’t visited before. Of course we will play material from our new album, also old stuff and this will be a very important and special way to celebrate with our die hard supporters our 20th anniversary. We are a different band live. I don’t like to reproduce our songs exactly like they are on the album. We have a much more raw rock’n’roll vibe playing live. Of course to me, the Up the Hammers festival will be very special, I’ll meet again all my friends and they are way too many, so it’s going to be a big Heavy Metal reunion family!


In a previous conversation you told me that the best is yet to come. What should we expect from Ironsword in 2016?

I may have told you that because I believe we’ll certainly have more shows in 2016 and I hope we can record a new album next year as well! I’m having a lot of crazy ideas for the next record, creativity is flowing naturally, and we have already 4 new finished songs. It will be a very different album than “None But the Brave”, but it will be in the typical IRONSWORD style. To be honest, I don’t want to compromise myself, but I fear there will come a time, even with all the fire and passion, that IRONSWORD will be a band hinged to its sound, releasing music just to please the fans because that’s what they expect from us. The possibility of repeating the same formula over and over and be on the so called comfort zone is something that I dislike. I never intended to open new musical paths, I always want to craft albums unlike any other. That’s why I have this feeling that the next album will be very important to me. I don’t want to rush things, but if we can’t record in 2016, then in 2017.

 Thank you for your time brother. The epilogue is yours.

Thank you very much Brother! I had a great time answering your questions! Hope to see you all on our shows! Keep supporting underground Heavy Metal!

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