Q&A: Nailed To Obscurity’s Jan-Ole Lamberti And Raimund Ennenga Struggle With Slippage

Nailed To Obscurity

Germany’s Nailed to Obscurity are part of a new guard of melodic death metal coming out of the land of Daimler AG and Adidas. Formed in 2005, the Esens-based quintet slowly built up a fanbase in and around Germany, before launching globally with new album, Black Frost, their first for German heavyweight Nuclear Blast.

By mixing up and re-interpreting the sounds of older (Still Life era) Opeth, the classic dreariness of Katatonia, and the melodic capabilities of Finns Insomnium, Nailed to Obscurity are the newest hopefuls in melodic death metal. New album, Black Frost, illustrates the Germans propensity for moody passages, killer rhythms, and right-sized heaviness. Tracks like “Tears Of The Eyeless,” “Road to Perdition,” and “Black Frost” traverse Nailed to Obscurity’s finer moments, where changes in tempo, mood, and motif come together brilliantly. Elsewhere on Black Frost, the album pivots into the dark mind of frontman/lyricist Raimund Ennenga. Tracks like “The Aberrant Host,” “Cipher”, and “Feardom” relate to and provide a picture of the meaning behind Black Frost‘s harrowing cover art.

Decibel sat down with guitarist Jan-Ole Lamberti and vocalist Ennenga to understand the depths of Black Frost, a nautical term metaphorically used to describe Ennenga’s inner struggles. Read on…

You were signed to Apostasy Records, owned by your friend Tomasz Wisniewski, for two albums. How did the Nuclear Blast deal come to fruition?
Jan-Ole Lamberti: We have management, actually. It’s actually Tomasz [Wisniewski] who runs Apostasy Records. They’ve been with the band for about six years. They arranged the deal with Nuclear Blast. We had talked before about going to a bigger label for Black Frost, and he agreed.

Did the Nuclear Blast deal put pressure on the band? I mean, I’m sure Tomasz would wait for you for as long as it takes, but the product guys at Nuclear Blast are probably like, “Let’s go! Needed the album two weeks ago!”
Jan-Ole Lamberti: Yes, definitely, the pressure was there. The band isn’t close together — we all live in different cities — so working together is only for the weekends. That’s normally just me and Volker [Dieken], the other guitar player. Before Nuclear Blast it was pretty slow, but after the deal, we were together Friday to Sunday, writing and writing. The arrangements for Black Frost were then assembled by the band. That’s kind of the process we’ve had all along, but this time with new label it felt more intense.

What were the songwriting sessions like for Black Frost? I gather you didn’t want to repeat King Delusion without at least the notion of moving forward as songwriters. To me, Black Frost sounds like a different band. Not entirely but there’s a lot of maturity in the music.
Raimund Ennenga: I would totally agree. When we started everything, we tried to copy King Delusion. That would’ve been a failure if we had continued with that idea. So, we corrected that. The end result is a lot more diverse, which is a term a lot of bands use, but I think it fits Black Frost. There’s more experimentation. I’m experimenting [as a vocalist], too. We put a lot of effort into Black Frost. It’s more diverse and more sinister in atmosphere. We opened the whole concept a bit more. There are songs on Black Frost that are 100 percent Nailed to Obscurity, but there are also songs that were open to new ingredients. This is the main difference between the last album and Black Frost.

But would you say the painful aspects of writing music, being an underground death metal band, and trying to do something other than be a “weekend band” have changed?
Jan-Ole Lamberti: Things are getting easier for us. But not by much. We’re still mostly all those things you’ve mentioned. [Laughs]

Where did the title, Black Frost, come from? I gather it’s not related to black ice, the very thing that facilitated in the death of Cliff Burton.
Raimund Ennenga: No, I think it’s a different thing altogether. I stumbled upon the title while watching television. I didn’t know the term, black frost, meant before, but it’s about the black frost in shipping. Sometimes on the ship’s super-structure frost forms due to fog or rain, and this causes additional weight to the ship’s masts and ropes. This can cause the ship to capsize. I thought it would be a cool idea to put this concept on humans who are struggling through fear, anger, and rage. By doing this they’re creating an overweight of the mind. They have to take care to not capsize.

So, deeper down, it’s not about inclement weather and shipping?
Raimund Ennenga: No! [Laughs] It’s about inner conflict. They’re personal lyrics, about my inner conflicts or struggles. They kind of follow what I was talking about on Opaque and King Delusion, but they’re entirely different on the surface. The lyrics are definitely abstract, but I think you can sense fear, loneliness, the day-to-day inner struggles you have with yourself. I would also say the lyrics aren’t mine though. They’re open to interpretation, which is a good quality about lyrics that aren’t so direct.

Raimund, you wrote all the lyrics this time, right?
Raimund Ennenga: Yes. Because of the time pressure, I had to write the lyrics on my own. The other guys weren’t that involved as before.

The cover art is incredible. Very raw, cold, brutal.
Jan-Ole Lamberti: It’s the same artist, Santiago Caruso, as on King Delusion. He’s from Argentina. He’s not really into metal, but he’s a musician who’s into dark stuff. That’s what’s really cool about Santiago. He understands what we’re trying to do, even if he’s not into metal. He’s really talented.

How did he come up with the concept for Black Frost? That exposed jawline with teeth and the eyes… striking.
Raimund Ennenga: “We sent him the lyrics and the album title. He asked for a little more freedom. He didn’t want to send sketches. He started directly and sent us the various states. Right away, it was phenomenal. The cover fit the lyrics perfectly. He’s the perfect fit for Nailed to Obscurity.

And what was it like working with V. Santura again?
Jan-Ole Lamberti: It felt right, like with King Delusion. We were at Woodshed Studios for three weeks. V. Santura understands us as musicians and we understand him as a producer. He’s very open about what is working and what isn’t. If he doesn’t like apart, he’ll tell us. I would say he’s one of the best producers and engineers in Germany right now. He’s reall the perfect producer for Nailed to Obscurity. We really didn’t think about other producers or studios, really. V. Santura and Woodshed Studios were right for us all along. I think it shows on Black Frost.

** Nailed to Obscurity’s new album, Black Frost, is out now on Nuclear Blast. Order it on CD, Digipak CD, and splatter-colored LP HERE. Fans of vintage Opeth, In Mourning, and October Tide take note!