Life on the road as part of a heavy-metal band isn’t for everyone. Members of Swiss group Burning Witches know this and speak from recent experience.
In kicking off the tour in support of their latest record, The Dark Tower, the six musicians played Mexico City on December 1 before heading north to Houston the next day. With a scheduled night off between the first two shows, the flight and trip to the Lone Star State shouldn’t have been a big deal. And it wasn’t, at least logistically.
But as the Burning Witches bandmates found their way to the hotel for the night, some of fellow guitarist Romana Kalkuhl’s gear was misplaced by the airline and went missing, says guitarist Courtney Cox. There was a chance that the airline could find and send it to the band in time for the next show, but it wasn’t a guarantee. It happens, notes Cox, and it’s best to just roll with the punches. Having a sense of humor certainly helps, too.
“Touring is not for everyone,” she deadpans. “It’s very difficult. It runs you down. You have to have really thick skin and basically run on empty the entire year.”
While MIA gear is frustrating, it’s par for the course when it comes to touring. Cox and drummer Lala Frischknecht know that, but they wouldn’t give it up for anything. “It’s just so worth it,” Cox says.
“We're a touring band. But we don’t think that it’s a job. It’s more of like a hobby or having fun together,” Frischknecht elaborates. “That’s the spirit of being in a band. Of course you want to kick ass on the stage. It’s different, because you’re attached to each other. You love each other and want to have fun.”
She recalls the enthusiasm of the Colombian crowds last year when Burning Witches was supporting Destruction in Latin America as an example of what being in a heavy-metal band is all about. “When you go to the stage, no matter how tired you are and you see the smile of the crowd and they’re singing your songs, it’s so priceless,” she shares. “You’re doing what you love and spreading this good energy to other people to make their life happier.”
The current tour will bring Burning Witches, an all-woman outfit, to Denver for the first time, too, on Tuesday, December 12. The Herman’s Hideaway show also includes openers Rock Machine and Signs of Tranquility.
“We’re just on stage headbanging and bringing it,” says Cox, who is originally from Philadelphia and recently joined Burning Witches after playing in bands such as the Iron Maidens, which once included shred guitarist Nita Strauss.
The band's latest release, The Dark Tower, furthers the “old-school vibes” that Burning Witches likes to bring. Plus, it’s essentially a concept album about Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed. The Hungarian noblewoman became more famous for her private proclivities than political power after she and her servants allegedly killed hundreds of young girls and women over a twenty-year span, from 1590 to 1610. Legend has it that she even went so far as to bathe in the blood of the victims. The album title is a reference to the Slovakian Čachtice Castle, where Báthory was imprisoned and eventually died.
“She’s too metal,” Frischknecht says. “Most of our songs and lyrics are from her. It’s a great story, but it’s sad at the same time. So many things happened in the past. It’s so brutal. So many tears and blood.
“She died in the tower,” she adds. “There are so many stories about that — how at the end, she was jailed there and died.”
“It was a slow death,” Cox confirms.
Báthory has been cited as inspiration in artistic works before, including metal music, and that’s not going to change.
“She’s fucking legendary,” Frischknecht says.
“Especially being in a metal band just adds to being evil,” Cox says. “It just allows for creativity and to make something completely brutal. Everyone knows this legend. It just made creating this record so easy.”
Of course, “as a metal band, you couldn’t just make this album title Flowers Under the Rainbow or some shit,” Frischknecht quips.
The cover showcases vampiric specters of each member escaping from the castle’s walls, a visual representation of the fifteen tracks of tried-and-true heavy metal with such standout songs as “Unleash the Beast” and “Renegade.” And for good measure, there are also covers of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Shot in the Dark” and W.A.S.P.’s “I Wanna Be Somebody” — a nod to the roots of the music they make.
“I think it’s just fun to make it the traditional way," Frischknecht says. "Many bands are doing it now."
“We stick to our guns. We know what we love to listen to,” Cox adds. “And any fan that puts us on, we’re so grateful and humble. Heavy metal till death.”
It’s not known whether Kalkuhl’s guitars have resurfaced since our chat, but it at least makes for a good tour story, as well as something the band — which also includes bassist Jeanine Grob, vocalist Laura Guldemond and guitarist Larissa Ernst — can rally around.
“You have to connect to each other, even in the music,” Frischknecht concludes. “We're like sisters here. We're friends. We take good care of each other. We aren’t just in a band to make music — we’re a family.”
Burning Witches, 7 p.m. Tuesday, December 12, Herman's Hideaway, 1578 South Broadway. Tickets are $20-$750.