For their debut album, the excellent "Deathstalker", Tower Hill were evidently influenced by the Teutonic Power Metal scene, but as you will discover in the interview with singer R.F. Traynor and guitarist Chris Nunz, they also appreciate the Italian music scene, and not only the purely Heavy Metal one...
I want to talk about your new album starting out. I think you have a great debut album out and I think it’s probably one of the best albums I heard at the end of 2023. Well… I just want to know how pleased you are with the final product. (R.F. Traynor)
: Thank you so much! We’re really thrilled that you enjoy "Deathstalker". The reaction to the album from fans around the world has been great, and we’re really pleased with the album we’ve put out and the response it’s received so far. We’ve learned a lot from making this album and we’re confident the next one will be even stronger.
Since "Deathstalker" is your first full length, Tower Hill aren't yet most known abroad, would you like to tell us the history of the band and who are the members? I read that most of you play also in Valyria, right?(R.F. Traynor)
: For sure! I started Tower Hill back in 2020 as just a one-man studio project initially. After the "Fighting Spirits" demo came out in 2021, we got a bit of notice in the “NWOTHM” scene and an offer from No Remorse Records. The band kind of came together after that. Everyone except for Chris (guitar) also plays in Valyria, but Chris and I had jammed together a bunch in a different Power Metal project that didn’t really get off the ground. I thought he was a perfect fit to round out the lineup and I was glad he was down to join!(Chris Nunz)
: I remember when I was at our local guitar store here in Edmonton because I had brought my strat for some fret work and RF Traynor walks into the store and he tells me “Hey I have this new Power Metal project I’m working on, would you be interested?” - After thinking for about 1 second I said ABSOLUTELY! Traynor is such an incredible songwriter as you all know now not to mention one of the greatest guys you will ever meet so I was beyond excited with the invite even before having listened to the demos or anything. Thanks for having me brother!
Do you agree with what I stated in my review "they have been imprisoned for a long time in a lonely tower on a hillside in Canadian Alberta... subjected to constant listening to the most classic Teutonic Heavy & Power Metal, consuming all the vinyl of Running Wild, Helloween, Blind Guardian, Scanner, Stormwitch"? (R.F. Traynor)
: That’s scarily accurate! Tower Hill quite literally became a band because I got totally hooked on Scanner, Stormwitch, Running Wild, and other bands like that during the COVID lockdowns in 2020. It is a bit lonely here in Alberta, mainly because it's so far to travel to play in other cities. But we’ve got some really great old school metal here, including more established acts like Traveler or Riot City, and a few other up-and-coming bands we’re really excited to perform with!
Even if there are many external influences perceivable in your sound, I have noticed a freshness of ideas and also a superior energy to some more bands affirmed, what do you think about? (R.F. Traynor)
: I don’t think we are reinventing the wheel on "Deathstalker", but I do think we throw in a few surprises while paying tribute to the bands you’ve mentioned. "How Am I" and "All the Little Devils" for example kind of bring in an arena rock vibe at times, whereas the title track is more technical but still plays in that Teutonic Heavy/Power style. "The Claw is the Law" also has a bit of a Latin feel that kicks in midway through. Our drummer is incredibly talented and great at breaking out of repetitive patterns or beats while still keeping it catchy, which really adds to the uniqueness of the tracks.
Who are the main songwriters of the band? Do you follow a particular procedure during the songwriting? Which are, in your opinion, the album highlights and the most effective "Stalker" for your "Death" songs?(R.F. Traynor)
: Almost all of the songs on "Deathstalker" were written to different degrees of completeness before the band formed, so we didn’t really have a particular procedure. But as we came together and started jamming them out, with the different players leaning into their parts, they took on more of their finished forms. I’m really stoked for our next couple albums because everyone is bringing their own songs to the table for us to develop and workshop as a band.
I found very well done the recording and production of the album too, a clear and sharp sound, what about these? How much did the collaboration with Olof Wikstrand contribute?(R.F. Traynor)
: The album does sound very clear and we’re really happy with how it turned out. We were somewhat limited by our budget on this album, so we are hoping on the next album to use more analog recording techniques while still maintaining the clarity. We worked with an excellent local engineer who did a superb job mixing, Diego Fernandez at Oracle Recording Studios. Olof was also wonderful and easy to work with and did a fantastic job mastering the album and bringing out the warmth of the sound, especially on the vinyl edition. I believe he mastered it while between tours, which is crazy impressive!
Are there any guests on the album?(R.F. Traynor)
: The second guitar solo on "The Claw is the Law" is actually a guest appearance from Jeff Black, who plays guitar in Gatekeeper and just started a great new band, Glyph. Jeff was super supportive and gave me a lot of really solid advice while I was getting the band started and locking down the record deal with No Remorse Records. He’s an absolutely brilliant player and shredder, and I was stoked to have him make an appearance on the album.
What was the inspiration for the artwork and how do these relate to the themes of the various songs that constitute the album? Are you proud to be able to have artwork made by Andreas Marschall? How did you get there?(R.F. Traynor)
: The original idea for the artwork actually came from my friend Austin, a good friend of the band. He and I are very into 70’s and 80’s films, like sword & sorcery, giallo, old school horror, all that kind of stuff. We were watching Deathstalker, this totally ridiculous 1983 Argentinian movie about a barbarian warrior guy, and thought about how cool it would be to make a metal song about it. That kind of evolved into the concept of the album art.
We’re all huge fans of Andreas Marschall’s work and especially on the early Blind Guardian albums, and once we had the idea we couldn’t imagine any other artist bringing it to life, so we figured we’d send him an email. He got back to us very quickly, and said that he liked the music and the idea and was down to take it on! It was so surreal working with him because his art was literally one of the things that got me into Heavy Metal. He was incredible to work with, and receiving the completed artwork from him was a dream come true!(Chris Nunz)
: Dude it’s the best feeling in the world to look at the list of artists that Andreas has worked with and see our name listed amongst sooo many of our heroes. Hammerfall, Running Wild, Stratovarius… Sodom… and now Tower Hill is also on the list. We are very thankful and proud that he has agreed to work with us.
Why you used sample samples from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" and "Wake in Fright" to introduce "Fighting Spirits" and "All the Little Devils are Proud of Hell"? By the way, the first one doesn't seem to have any references to Sergio Leone's film, does it? (R.F. Traynor)
: Like I said I am a big film buff, and I love when bands use movie samples in their work as a way to set the tone and theme for the music. It kind of leaves a little puzzle for fans to track down what the sample is from. "Fighting Spirits" is basically about the idea of liquid courage or berserker rage, drinking or taking psychedelics before charging into battle, and the lyrics talk about that throughout the ages from like the viking age into the far future. I got the concept from the scene in "The Good…" that the sample is from, where this Civil War captain is talking about how he basically gets his men drunk before sending them off to die in battle - the fighting ‘spirit’ is the drink! "Devils" is way more of a direct reference, the song basically just tells the story of "Wake in Fright", and the character’s beer-fueled descent into hell. So they’re both drinking songs, but not exactly in a positive sense!
Are you satisfied about your record deal with the Greek label No Remorse Records? It seems strange that no Canadian or US label has been interested in you!(Chris Nunz)
: We are beyond stoked with what No Remorse has offered us and that’s really helping us grow. All folks at No Remorse are fantastic people to work with, super helpful, friendly, amazing work ethics. We are extremely lucky to be in their roster. As for Canadian and US labels, our style of metal, delving more into Power Metal is not the most popular style here in North America so there isn’t that much attention to it when it comes to labels and the industry in general if you compare with Europe and South America or even Japan. Sometimes it feels like it is growing but still really far from other parts of the world. But yes, thanks to No Remorse, Tower Hill is getting the show on the road and we are extremely grateful for their support.
Ehm... this is a very challenging question, looking your debut album you are more satisfied for:(Chris Nunz)
a. The good music included.
b. The cover of the album.
c. The lot of money it will be brought back.
d. The pleasure it gave to the fans.
e. How beautiful is the band in the promotional photos.
: I’m gonna say how beautiful we look in the photos. In my opinion we look like absolute studs in those photos! Not quite like Italian artists because that would be impossible. By the way, how do you guys do it? Is it in the water or what’s going on? EVERY ITALIAN IS SO PRETTY!!! I am a personal fan of Il Volo and Andrea Bocelli. I saw him live in Vegas last year and he brought his whole family on stage, Matteo, Veronica & Virginia and everybody else. OMG you guys are the best. Hoping to catch Il Volo live some time! (R.F. Traynor)
: We do look like absolute studs! Not quite nailing the Rhapsody of Fire look but we’re giving it our best shot! But I’m definitely most satisfied with the response from the fans - we’re overwhelmed by how much support we’ve had for the album and the great opportunities to connect with fans all over the world.
All jokes aside, what is coming next for Tower Hill? Is there a tour planned, festivals and such? (Chris Nunz)
: We are in fact looking at playing some festivals and obviously starting with North American festivals in Canada and in the US but our flavor of Metal is obviously pretty popular in Europe and South America so those would be our logical next steps once we get our ducks in a row. Being born and raised in Brazil going back to South America with Tower Hill would be a dream coming true and a great opportunity to share the word about Swords and Pirates and Canadian stories in my neck of the woods. (R.F. Traynor)
: We’re aiming for a couple festivals this summer and talking to a few other Canadian and Amercian bands about setting up some tours or one-off dates. But yeah like Chris said, the long-term goal is absolutely to get to Europe and South America one day! We keep getting messages asking us to play and we’re totally down - just need an offer!
How hard is it to be a band struggling to get noticed in today’s cauldron of bands all over the place?(Chris Nunz)
: Dude is super hard! Today as you know anyone can basically start a project alone, write, record, and publish. That is amazing so all voices can be heard. The challenge is how to make YOUR voice heard. That is the million dollar question. We are truly fortunate for having the opportunity we had since the beginning when NWOTHM published our Demo bringing us so much visibility and then later on when No Remorse Records noticed us and then got us on track to where we are now.
To end this interview, do you have anything you’d like to say to your Italian fans?(Chris Nunz)
: Grazie Fratelli! We are REALLY looking forward to maybe one day visiting you and having the honor of playing in the country where Fabio Lione, one of our biggest heroes was born along with so many other legends. If you zoom out in history, Italy is arguably the birthplace of music as we know so thank you for everything that Italy has shared with the rest of us.(R.F. Traynor)
: Thank you all so much! I visited Italy a few years ago to see Rhapsody and Ancient Bards - huge fan of Italian metal and we cannot wait to visit and perform for you one day!!!
Photo Credit @Dana Zuk by Promotional Kit for free promotional use