Rising stars AD INFINITUM have been causing a storm since 2020 when they released Chapter I: Monarchy and continue to do so. They are due to release their latest record Chapter III: Downfall which consists of a mixed bag of songs in their signature style. Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to drummer Niklas Müller about the new album, specific songs, mental health and what historical period he would visit.
For ages, you and the other band members wore mask up until recently. What made you all decide that this was the time to reveal your faces?
We’ve never been that band that wanted to cover their identity all the time because we made it clear that this person is playing guitar, this person is on drums, that person is playing bass and of course Melissa [Bonny] on vocals as everyone knew about her in the first instance as it’s her project. The step wasn’t that hard to make, it felt right at that moment as we are evolving and at that moment we thought what if we did ditch the masks in a more natural. That was the idea behind it, no cover story or anything like that. It was the right moment and they are very uncomfortable to wear when playing live.
I can imagine that, it makes me wonder how Lordi do that everytime with those prosthetics.
I have a lot of respect for that.
You’re due to release Chapter III: Downfall coming out soon. Great album by the way. So far each album has a theme so with Monarchy it was Louie V and Legacy about Dracula. What does Downfall look into?
It’s basically looking into the ancient Egypt culture and the build of many gods. There’s especially more detail when it comes to Cleopatra and her biography but that’s more in a lyrical way. It’s not that we try to force everything into the musical aspect as in an Egyptian musical style, of course we included that stuff in the production details where we tried to keep the idea of this old tribal feeling from time to time. We wanted to mix things up.
This album is a very mixed bag, are there more symphonic elements in this album too? That explains the Egyptian style of symphonic arrangements in particular the tracks Ravenous and Seth.
Exactly. It’s not just symphonic elements when it comes to strings, horns, woodwinds and everything else; it isn’t a traditional symphonic sound. It’s more fooling around with sounds, plugins and sound libraries that we have which we dig into and making complete nonsense. It makes it sound worse yet it somehow works in the songs. It’s funny you mention Ravenous because this is a very folkish and tribalish song in soundscape, it’s not all the way through but it heads in that direction. Then you have another song for example Upside Down that is super electronic but it still has symphonic elements so it’s totally mixed up.
Where you mentioned this mixed bag of tracks in particular Upside Down, it got me thinking about the track The Underworld. It’s a more traditional modern metal track, were there any particular influences for this track?
Not in general. Usually we just grab a tempo and we keep it going. We wrote these songs more than a year ago and so much stuff happened in between. We originally came up with the main riff of the song and kept it going from there, turning it into an upbeat song.
Another track name I made a note of was Under The Burning Skies. Am I right in thinking that’s the first ballad Ad Infinitum have done?
Exactly, you’re absolutely right. I mean we have a bunch of power ballads for example we had Tell Me Why in Chapter I: Monarchy but it’s not an entire ballad in that sense. On Chapter II: Legacy we had Son Of Wallachia and Inferno but that’s a power ballad as those hit hard and heavy. We found we were missing a main ballad and I think we found it with that song.
The track New Dawn also caught my attention as it sounds incredibly positive. Not that it’s a bad thing. The majority of your songs mainly use minor tones and this one uses a lot of major tones. It’s a great track.
I knew at one point someone would ask me this question about New Dawn. I personally love it, it’s one of my favourite songs off this album. Like you say, a lot of our songs use minor keys and then suddenly there’s the upbeat tune of this track. The idea from a guitar riff Adrian [Thessenvitz] created from the very beginning, he sent it to us and asked us what we thought and if we should do something out of this. At first I thought it could be part of a cool combination like with Inferno like starting off with a minor key on an acoustic guitar with a soft intro but we made it into a pop-gen ish track. There’s definitely a lot of positivity flowing through the song and I really like it. It’s powerful, energetic and positive.
What was the most challenging aspect of recording Chapter III: Downfall?
For me personally, I was a little bit afraid when recording From The Ashes because it has that very rhythmic part in a Meshuggah style but it was actually very nice during the recording session and it went super smooth. During the recording, everything was fine. It was more in the pre-production and the rehearsing, we re-wrote the C part of Architect Of Paradise and I played the song a couple of times on the drums when rehearsing it and then we changed the part which took a while to get used to. It was tiny details we changed but it was worth it.
With this album, am I right in thinking there are less growls in this record? Compared to the last releases I mean.
You might think that because there’s less growls in the singles we released so I understand why you might think that. We chose the strongest songs or the ones we thought best fit as singles and they just happened to be the songs with less screaming but we didn’t reduce the screaming, hell no.
I have spoken to Melissa [Bonny] previously in interviews and she mentioned each of you have different influences that you bring to the band. I am curious to know who your influences are.
Drumming wise, I am more heavily influenced by Avenged Sevenfold. I had this huge Dream Theatre phase like most metal drummers have. Music wise, I am little bit more open; I listen to a lot of soundtracks of films and video games. I also listen to a lot of solo guitarists like Plini. These are what inspire my approach to song writing.
Do you have any particular favourite film or gaming soundtracks?
Yes. One that is very good is the soundtrack to Oblivion, the movie and not the game. Though the soundtracks to the Elder Scroll games such as Oblivion, Morrowind and Skyrim are all very good. For movies, I think Thomas Newman is his name, he did the soundtrack for 1917. From gaming, it’s Johan Söderqvist who did the soundtrack for the Battefield games, the soundtracks for those games are epic and very well done.
One of the missions at Rock Out Stand Out is spreading awareness around mental health. What is awareness like in your local areas in terms of what resources and if it’s being spoken about in the media?
It’s being spoken about in the media but it’s not as open as I would love it to be. Yet I think that’s the problem in most areas because you feel kind of ashamed for that or asking for help when you’re not feeling well or when you realise that you have a situation that you can’t solve alone. I’ve have been in those situations and will most likely be in them again because everyone has their packages to carry with them.
What I would always say is; it doesn’t matter what the problem is, it always helps when you talk to someone about it. It could be your neighbour, your family, your best friend that you open up to. Whether it’s a small problem, something huge or something you carry with you for your whole life; it always helps to speak to someone.
When it comes to bigger issues like depression, panic attacks or anything else you need urgent help with; you call the doctor to try and get help but the waiting lists are so long. Here it often feels like when you really need help it’s like they tell you that you should have figured out months ago because they don’t have enough resources to help you. That’s what it’s like in my area anyway.
When you have anxiety, depression or anything like that, the first and most important step in my opinion is acknowledging there is a problem and admit to yourself that you can’t do this on your own. That’s the biggest part as when you take it, you’re not completely over the mountain but you made the first step and that is huge. Then you get stuck and that’s when you contact the professionals but then get told you got to wait a year for an appointment.
All these what we think are little problems do build up if you don’t talk about it and that can lead to mental health problems. Is there anything you like to do to relax and unwind if you have had a bad day or if you’re stuck in your head?
The big thing for me is listening to music, I like listening to soundtracks and soundscapes with no vocals. With those, no-one is talking to you or trying to deliver a message, you’re all alone with your thoughts and interpretations of the music experience. Second is going out and riding my bike, I like to do that as it helps clear my head. I like to combine the two I have just mentioned. The third thing is playing video games as that helps me relax.
Your albums go through moments of history, what historical period would you most like to visit?
I think Ancient Egypt or Ancient Greece because of the cultures and what mankind learnt they had. It leaves so much imagination and it seems so incredibly impressive. I would love to jump in there and ride around on my horse, looking at all the pretty things they have built. Also getting to know the culture and the people. Of course there are dark sides of it but that would be the era for me to jump into.
Do you have a message for Ad Infinitum fans and Rock Out Stand Out readers?
First of all, thank you for taking to the time and reading this interview. I cannot wait to play the rest of the Chapter III: Downfall songs live for you and to reach all of you as we had to wait such a long time until we could hit the road. Now it’s possible, we are planning to go everywhere.
Thank you very much Niklas for speaking with Rock Out Stand Out and best of luck with the album release.