Interview with Freya vocalist Karl Buechner | By Hutch | Photo by Shada Gale
Freya is a name taken from the Norse goddess who collected soldiers who died in battle. This subject matter has permeated Syracuse, New York, band Freya‘s five albums. Freya extol these tales over aggressive metal. Lyrics drip with stains of blood and savagery, reliving ecological disasters, rebellions, and plagues. The newest record, Grim, gathers fodder from the original Grimms’ Fairy Tales. The original fables and parables heralded gruesome and violent imagery to scare and warn children. Vocalist Karl Buechner—the only remaining original member of Freya, and the vocalist of Earth Crisis, Path Of Resistance, and Vehement Serenade—has rebuilt the band from their initial line-up and vision. Grim still boasts Brendon Flynn on guitars—three albums deep now—and the new recruits are bassist Thom Turner and drummer Dirk Verbeuren, who has played in Megadeth, Aborted, Satyricon, Bent Sea, and spent 13 years with metal legends, Soilwork. Fast Break! Records drop this ripper on Sept. 30.
Today, we’re premiering the full stream of Grim (listen below), and Buechner comments, “Flynn’s songwriting and all of the artwork he painted for the album forcefully project the darkness and severity of the dual themes of conflict and survival. After stepping back from Grim that’s the impression the collection of lyrical stories leave me with overall. The power of the simple warnings in the cautionary folktales that we all grew up with still resonate. Times change but humans with all of their flaws ranging from minor irksome offenses all the way down to those with dangerous and sadistic obsessions do not. Tommy and Dirk brought some serious intensity to Grim and every day of composing and refining was a fun challenge bringing this vision to life together. Thanks to Dave Earsplit and all at Fast Break! Records for getting Grim out there and of course much thanks to all who support and appreciate Freya. The future is grim!”
Through 2004, Freya were the foundation of Earth Crisis guitarists Erick and Ian Edwards and their version of rock and metal. Since they stepped away, Buechner has pushed to redefine Freya over each album and strive for a technical and layered type of metal. Adding Verbeuren and Flynn’s technical growth allows Freya to explore more rigid heights in their music. Buechner works at not just having the binary resources of a metal growl and clean singing, but also intermediate vocal approaches. The melodic breaks and grander, expansive sound allow the band to spread their wings over 11 tracks.
“Once Flynn and I took things over, we combined our favorite aspects of hardcore and metal. When we did All Hail the End [in 2010], Paragon of the Crucible [in 2013], and now, Grim, we are refining our goal more and more,” Buechner states. “Since 2009, the band has evolved into a metal band more than anything else, musically.” That musical approach supplies the dark, wrathful atmosphere for Buechner’s ugly tales of humanity. He elaborates on Grim, “These are cautionary tales. They tell how dangerous certain situations are, whether it’s personality types or the natural world.”
Buechner explains his lyrical writing process by saying, “When I hear these songs, I see the image, like a sculptor sees the images before he carves. I think of certain things: a werewolf chasing someone through the forest or rats swarming over deceased corpses. It was weird, I will admit it.” With 25 years singing for four different bands, Buechner praises family for giving him the endurance. “My mother and my aunt are Wagnerian Opera singers and voice professors,” he reveals. “I get more than a little help from them.”
Buechner’s vocals on Grim have a professed “somber feel.” This echoes the imagery of the daunting Grim. “The vocals match the tone, I make sure,” he notes. “There is not clean singing, but there is actual singing and screams with a controlled pitch.” Tracks like “To Burgeon Feathered Wings,” “Skeleton’s Key,” and “The Sentinel” tear a savage hole in the fabric of the album, blazing fast. Flynn’s whiplash riffs, Buechner’s dynamic vocals, and Verbeuren’s superior drumming coalesce on Freya’s best album yet.
Buechner emits a solid pride, but his virtue is his frankness. He is humble, endearing, and sincere. “I’m very lucky that I got to start in an era where people were buying CDs, cassettes, and vinyl,” he says. “Things weren’t as factionalized as now. Metal kids came to hardcore shows; hardcore kids went to metal shows. We built up a lot of fans through those years. Some people follow one band or both, but it works out for me, because I get to play music with my friends and see the world.”