Interview with Impure Wilhelmina vocalist/guitarist Michael Schindl | By Nicholas Senior
Remember those cast-iron radiators that probably heated your grandparents’ house? Those radiators were to heat what Impure Wilhelmina are to evocative music. You see (or hear), this veteran Swiss group have been perfecting their expressive and intense form of post-metal over their 20-year existence, and their latest creation, Radiation—released July 7 via Season Of Mist—seriously radiates emotion from its very pores. This is the kind of record that leaves the listener floored, flabbergasted, and fraught with more feelings than they know what to do with. This is music that crawls up to you ever so slowly and envelops you with emotion.
Impure Wilhelmina’s mix of post-hardcore, gothic rock—their moniker comes from the heroine of “Dracula”—and atmospheric metal is at its peak on Radiation. The natural ebb and flow of these songs mark moments of real darkness and peaks of true beauty. Vocalist and guitarist Michael Schindl explains that this idea formed early and was very intentional. “Through the years, I became more confident with my voice and, also, with my musical expressivity in general,” he shares. “The challenge for us was to transmit this expressivity and keep the emotion as intense as it was during the creative phase. We really want to irradiate the listener with this, and that’s why the album is called Radiation. It’s a title that we chose a long time before we started to record, and I think it helped us, like a leitmotiv.”
Radiation really is an incredible listen, and the band are far more efficient at evoking those feelings than those old household radiators were at pumping out heat. Schindl’s haunting vocals complement the music so satisfyingly that it almost sounds dissonant at times. However, while the music is pleasing, the record’s lyrics deal with the darkness of human nature. Schindl explains, “Some themes [that] are going through the whole record: human relationships and condition, psychological and physical violence, anger, solitude, and love. These lyrics were mainly written in a six-month period that was not easy for me, and for this reason, they are so dark—but I always wrote about the dark side of the human mind in Impure Wilhelmina.”
Music scenes are built on camaraderie, but as is common with many artists, Schindl’s relationship with this idea of community is a bit challenging. “Being a very introverted person who always enjoyed solitude, I never really try to fit into a community, but, of course, people around me are important,” he admits. “I’m not a misfit or a misanthrope—even if I was cultivating this kind of attitude when I was younger, like a true metalhead, you know? On this point, I think I’ve changed my mind, trying to be more open and more conscious about what I can give and receive. I try to be more positive, keeping all the negative vibes for the music, which means that, in the future, my lyrics will maybe become even darker.”
“I’ve always seen a community like the less common denominator of individual singularities and a source of alienation, which is another theme of my lyrics,” he adds, “but this point of view may change, because of the growing importance for me of self-help, empathy, and care that can be found in a community.”