The new release of "Viribus Unitis" allowed us to have a chat with the Austrian metallers Dragony, and in particular with their singer Siegfried "The Dragonslayer" Samer who, also thanks to Napalm Records which we want to thank, has given us some very interesting insight about this unusual and really beautiful concept album on the history of Franz Joseph and the Austrian Empire!
Hello Siegfried, and welcome on Metal.it! Let’s start talking about the concept of this album, which is definitely unusual and interesting… Where did the idea come from?
We had the idea when we were going to 70.000 Tons of Metal
in 2019. The night before the cruise we were checking out Miami a bit and had a few drinks, and started discussing possible concepts for a follow-up album to “Masters of the Multiverse
” from 2018. I think it was our bass player Herb who came up with the idea of putting Emperor Franz Joseph into a steampunk armor and calling him “Cyberpunk Joseph”. We liked that as it fit our style and sense of humor, and the rest just developed from there.
How did you manage to follow the story through the songs? Did you write the lyrics after the music was done, or did you have to adapt music to the story that was developing?
Basically we would write the songs first, and whenever one song was done I tried to figure out where it would fit in the storyline and in the context of an album tracklist, and then I wrote the lyrics accordingly.
This album shows a change in the themes that were classic, for you and a lot of other bands, I’m talking about fantasy, dragons, etc etc… Why did you do such a shift, what was the spark?
Well of course we are usually a very fantasy-based band (I mean, our name is “Dragony”, so… yeah) and I think even in this new album we still have a lot of fantastical elements, with the whole steampunk and magic aspects thrown in and mixed together with “real” history. So we are definitely not going to go full-on Sabaton(Sbranf laughs hard, ndr)
and deal with only real topics/real history from now on. It was just a coincidence this time I think, that we adapted a storyline that involves real people and events from history, and made our concept out of that.
Musically, there are a lot of ups and downs in the rhythm of the songs; to me, this creates interest, variety and it’s a ‘plus’ to the quality of the album. Was it planned or it just came that way?
On the one hand it of course came out that way, but when you’re making a whole album instead of just a single release, then you always kind of want to bring some diversity into the songs. If every song was a 160 bpm uptempo Power Metal song, then listening to the whole album in one sitting could get boring pretty quickly, if every song sounded essentially the same. So there is for sure some thought behind that, to create some diversity in the respect!
Some lyrics, and the title, are in Latin… Why did you pick Latin for certain lyrics?
The Latin parts have connections to the actual history of the Habsburg emperors. The album title “Viribus Unitis
” was the official motto of Emperor Franz Joseph I., and translates to “With united forces
”; which I think is a great title for a Power Metal album!
” is an acronym attributed to Frederick III, one of the first Holy Roman Emperors from the house of Habsburg who lived in the 15th century. There are various interpretations of this acronym, but the most popular one (and also the one we used on our album) is “Austriae Est Imperare Orbi Universo
”, which translates to “It is Austria’s destiny to rule the world”.
We thought it fitting since it describes the history and mindset of the Austrian emperors up to Franz Joseph, and also somehow can be seen as one of the reasons why it drove him to start WWI; out of this mentality that Austria “just has” to rule, and therefore needs to go to war – even if it means starting a war that it cannot win, which was the case in 1914 with the first World War. And that ultimately led to the fall of the empire.
There are some collaborations behind “Viribus Unitis”, for example Tommy Johansson... Can you tell us something about it?
I met Tommy several years ago at a festival where he was playing with Sabaton, and I was playing with Visions of Atlantis. We were introduced by a mutual friend, and just got along pretty well! He is a very nice and extremely talented dude, and he already contributed a guest solo on our previous album “Masters of the Multiverse
”. So this time we decided to take the collaboration a bit further, and since I really liked the songwriting style he had together with his bandmember Tomas Svedin in the project “Symphony of Tragedy
”, I approached them about a possible songwriting contribution to the new Dragony album – and luckily, they were just working on the song that would ultimately become “Gods of War”, and were kind enough to share it with us! It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks from the album, as it really adds that Scandinavian Power Metal touch to our sound.
Another notable guest appearance is certainly the one from Georg Neuhauser
– as we’ve been friends with them for many years already, a guest appearance was long overdue! And it was absolutely fitting this time around, since Georg teaches history at a university in Austria, so to have him involved on the first Dragony album that also deals with history, and singing the part of Emperor Franz Joseph, was just perfect. He did a great job as always, and it really makes the song something special I think!
And finally we have Michele Guaitoli
and Alessia Scolletti
, who provided all the backing vocals on the album, and also one song – “Love You To Death
” was actually written by Michele!
The inevitable question about COVID: how did affect you as a person, and the band as a whole? It probably affected also the way this album was done...
Yeah it did affect the album production process a bit, but in our case it was not too bad – with the new label deal with Napalm Records coming up, we needed to delay the release of the album a bit anyways, and pushed it to January 2021 even though we had originally aimed at a release in fall 2020. But I think it was a good decision to move it, as it gave us more time to work on everything.
Personally, I work in a field where I now actually had more work than before the pandemic, so it has been manageable for me. But I definitely would love for live shows to come back!
Do you already have plans for live concerts? Or, better, do you have plans for a return to live? This is an integral part of your job, after all…
You are right, but unfortunately, it’s not really possible to plan much at the moment. We were planning to have an album release show in February as well as live stream concert, but the Austrian government has just extended the lockdown here in Austria and probably will extend it some more, so it’s not possible to do anything right now, not even rehearse; let alone play a show in front of people. So we will try to move everything to early summer and hope for the best! But I think that in the fall, shows and tours should start back up again, once enough people have been vaccinated.
Italian readers are loving your latest album… The last words are for you, and thank you very much for this interview!!
We hope that the people out there enjoy “Viribus Unitis” and have a lot of fun with it! And we hope to be back in Italy very soon as well!