Scotland! A land of history, mystery and a whole lot of hills. With the amount of history we have surrounding swords and castles, one would expect a fair few Scottish bands producing album after album of historical tales of bloodshed. One would expect wrong then, aside from the newly formed Gloryhammer spreading fictional tales of the Kingdom of Fife we’ve turned a relatively blind eye to the wealth of material available. Perhaps this is for the best though; it allowed Grave Digger to produce two rather excellent albums from a fairly untapped source and it allowed our featured band to build their entire musical career..
Argentina’s Skiltron formed in 2004 and set about correcting the absence of Scottish history from the ears of metal fans worldwide with their debut album The Clans Have United (2006). Why then, have Skiltron taken it upon themselves to write about a small European country opposed to their own lands? Says the band; “I find in Scotland’s history and culture a great inspiration for my lyrics. I’ve been there many times and it is awesome how people love their country and history. They learn that from short age, a thing that is not normal in other places.”
While discussing the roots of inspiration, the topic of song subjects arises. Skiltron cover many aspects of Scottish history, one in particular that stands out is the Battle of Largs. The song describes the events of the 1263 engagement between the Vikings and Scots. Despite a yearly celebration where reconstructions and villages are set up on the spot, it still seems quite an unknown event. Just how did a band from so far away find out about the events? “Just reading, travelling, talking to people.” We are told they really like that kind of topic and “when [he] thinks that something could be cool for a song, [he] starts to investigate about that.”
With bagpipes and traditional music/influences being the body of many of their songs, it may surprise some to hear they don’t consider themselves under the folk metal banner. “I think that Skiltron is not a band of what Folk metal is called nowadays” and he could be fair to say that. Many of today’s folk metal bands are very keyboard orientated with harsh vocals leading the way. Instead he “likes to think that this is a metal band with the addition of some traditional instruments.” In the end though, there’s one band that any band that uses traditional instruments has to name check for inspiration; “of course my great inspiration is Skyclad” though acknowledges “we are different musically.” (speaking of Skyclad, we have a piece on the birth of the folk metal genre, follow this link after you’re done here for more)
Moving on from formation and influences, we look to the now and the future. Skiltron are embarked on a European tour right now and will be invading the British Isles next week. The trip will take them from Scotland down to the leading metal festival in the UK, Bloodstock Open Air, an occasion that excites the band. “Bloodstock is the most important gig of the tour, so we are preparing a very selected set. We are playing songs from all of our albums, not necessary based on the new one, but of course we play a couple of songs from it too.”
On the subject of the latest album we discuss Into The Battleground (2013) and the recording process. According to the band the “recording process was different the other albums. For example we took all the time we wanted without any deadline. We were working really relaxed. We started to record it in 2012 when we recorded drums, bass and guitars, which some of them were in Glasgow. Then we completed the recordings in Buenos Aires, and the main vocals of most of the songs were recorded in Newcastle. So it was like a compilation of data that we edited and mixed in Buenos Aires.”
Those of you who know Skiltron will know they don’t have a permanent singer. When quizzed on the vocalist for the current tour dates and album we are told that they “are working right now with Tony Thurlow, a singer from Newcastle, who sang most of the songs in the album and he is singing on the tour. He is a secessionist, no full time member.” This is an interesting approach; many bands are identified by their vocalist, however with Skiltron they are recognisable via they’re music first, and vocals second.
Looking to the future the band tell us they plan to take the rest of the year after the European tour to planfor 2014. In particularly they mention that they “are working on South American dates and also we are already working on new stuff.” From the strength of this latest release, another album would be very welcome.
Until such time though, we can all enjoy the force that is Into The Battleground, perhaps with a whisky if you were lucky enough to bag yourself the special preorder of the album that came with a miniature bottle. “Ah! it is a 9 years old single malt!” say the band when asked. Any band that gives whisky away with metal music is a winner in my book.
More information and tour dates..