Lurking in the inferno a shadow lies in wait. A conjuring will soon take place to send the malevolent messenger through the gates of hell and into the world of man. Lord Ragnar Wagnar and Rotted Skull will proclaim the true calling by spreading the word of ‘The Heretic Order’ through classic heavy metal. Of course, this is all thematic and a play on paganism, satanic rituals and gruesome moments in history using an array of props and fake blood during gigs. They even have their own ‘nymph witches’.
The Order was formed through Gibraltarian powerhouse duo and former Breed 77 members Danny Felice aka Ragnar Wagnar (lead vocals and guitar) and Stuart Cavilla aka Rotted Skull (bass). They summoned Marcel from Brit metallers Affluenza (guitar) and Ernie Nogara ex-Savage Messiah (drums) into their ranks and broke onto the UK metal scene in 2014. With their debut album, ‘All Hail The Order’, the band soon achieved its first milestone by securing a spot in the much maligned ‘Bloodstock Festival’ as well as touring extensively around the UK and Europe.
Fresh from ‘Lorca Metal Fest’ in Murcia, where it was ‘hotter than hell!’, the ‘dressed down’ versions of The Heretic Order arrived at Casemates to unleash their message, announce their second album ‘Evil Rising’ and their return to Bloodstock Open Air Festival this year.
M: What does The Order represent and what are you trying to achieve with this concept?
Ragnar Wagnar: The Heretic Order is a metal beast at its core, but we dip into many musical styles such as heavy metal, rock ‘n’ roll, stoner rock and much more. ‘Death Ride Blues’ contains more rock ‘n’ roll ‘Motorhead’ machinegun style riffs whereas our track ‘Entombed’ circles more around epic ‘Iron Maiden’ musical bits.
Stu and I are major history buffs and we are always talking about the dark times throughout the ages. When we toured in Germany, we visited three concentration camps as well as museums and gothic castles. This sort of stuff really influences our music. I really like the old British history like the dominant Norman keeps in Wales that were constructed to rule them in torturous and brutish ways. You can’t get much darker than that. The Normans crushed them. History is written by the winners. Those who were burned or hung couldn’t argue much for themselves, could they?
Rotted Skull: We never got to hear their side of the story. It’s like what happened to the Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Báthory, she was also very clearly framed. They found body parts and blood, so they arrested her and killed all her maids before they locked her up in a tower until she died. No one ever saw her again. What really happened was that the medieval Austria-Hungarian Empire was an extremely male dominated society and she was left with the short end of the stick when her husband died. The wolves were at the gate ready to devour and consume her recently inherited kingdom. They demonised her, a recurrent them throughout humanity’s gruesome past.
Ragnar Wagnar: It’s the classic way to conquer a civilization. Make them the bad guy and gain support to wipe them out. Then take their holidays and ‘pagan’ ceremonies and make them your own, just like Christianity did with Christmas (Solstus) and Easter (Estore, which originally represented fertility and people used to gather to…well…I’ll let you fill in the rest). The Christians took that date and said it was when Jesus raised from the dead…erm…no, this date had been a pagan feast for thousands of years. It’s all politics at the end of the day and if you dig enough, you can discover a lot of hidden truths.
We are not just a love you baby Rock ‘N’ Roll band. That’s a little shallow for us. Our project goes beyond music, it’s a whole concept that we bring. The name says it all, ‘The Heretic Order’. 200 years ago they would have burned us at the stake.
Rotted Skull: We represent something outside of the box. Yeah, there may be death and black metal bands out there that also use themes, but we’re not playing that music, so we are unique in our own sort of way.
M: How have you changed your direction musically with The Order following Breed 77?
Ragnar Wagnar: Breed 77 had more of a structured five minute song arrangement that would perhaps apply to more people. With The Order we might not even have any verses or choruses. We don’t care about that anymore. We’re just telling stories in our own way without any limits and showing our progressive side. One of the tracks in the new album ‘The Scourge of God’ is around 15 minutes long and is about Gilles de Rais (We’ll talk about that later). It’s ridiculously complicated and goes through many changes. It’s a great story.
M: What about your transition from backing to lead vocals as well as the bass?
Ragnar Wagnar: Funnily enough, I was thinking of looking for a singer for the Order but Stu convinced me that it sounded good as it was. I thought, no way man. I just didn’t want to do it at the beginning, but we discussed it and we had grown the concept together, so we thought that a third party might ruin it and take it another way, especially lyrically. We had it very clear what we wanted to be about as from day one. I sung in a few cover bands before joining Breed, but when I am possessed as Ragnar things flow in an energetic way with me proclaiming The Order’s message as lead vocalist.
Rotted Skull: The Order leans more towards the metal side of things when comparing to Breed which is actually something that I am really fond of. I grew up with this kind of music where the bass becomes more prominent and complex within this genre. We had much more time to work on The Order than we did for Breed where there was always tremendous pressure to complete the album within a specific timeframe. I had the chance to really delve into my mind and extract some really dark and hard hitting bass lines. It is all far more intricate.
M: What kind of following do you draw in with your music?
Ragnar Wagnar: We are starting to see our true fans emerging from the underworld. One of our more artistic fans dared to recreate Lord Ragnar Wagner in a portrait painting. “You are my hero. They all call me a witch at school but I’m just a pagan practicing my rituals. I can really identify with you.” Personally, I do not undergo any rituals. I am just a storyteller and I do not pretend to be anything.
Rotted Skull: She had painted our logo on her jacket and all. I think we can call her a real follower of our legion. The reality is that we represent the frustration of marginalised society that does not fit into the pop-culture mould. It is an escape for them and it is similar to when I used to put my headphones on and listen to Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and King Diamond. It would draw strange looks from people back then, but I guess that’s what we are doing now for our fans. The guys at Massacre Records have a great belief in our music and compared our vibe to King Diamond while also hailing our originality.
M: Is life on the road tough?
Rotted Skull: Everybody thinks that life on the road is fun and we are just partying throughout, but the reality is that we have to sort out everything for ourselves. That means hotels, vans and ferries, if we go to Europe. There is a lot of planning ahead of a tour or concert. You can’t just say I’m going to be the best in the world, play like hell and get a record deal. No, there are many other factors to consider like who you know, being in the right place at the right time and much more. You need the right work ethic. Do we take our stuff with us? Do we hire our equipment there? These are logistical questions that we ask ourselves every time we hit the road. That is the difficult bit. You need to be dedicated in the music business. Our job is the band and everything else revolves around it. You just need to find the time to make it work. I’ve realised that most bands in Spain only play over the weekend, but in the UK or Germany, you’ll play every day. When you have to cover the costs of the roadies, hired busses and other expenses, you cannot just be chilling in a hotel for a few days. It’s just not possible.
Ragnar Wagnar: It’s one and a half hours of heaven when we are on stage, but the rest is dirt and grind. Don’t get us wrong. It is not all doom and gloom, even though our music and attire might say otherwise. We get to travel around the world from Japan to Mexico thanks to that.
M: Where will The Order spread its influence next?
Ragnar Wagnar: We’ve done a few gigs in Spain last month and we are planning to do more. We realise that we’re in a niche market and are aiming to expand into Europe, South America and the United States. The evangelists will love us there…we could do a bible tour. We also want to spread our message to the masses in Germany where we sold over 500 units, which is quite good this day and age. That may have been peanuts back in the day but people just don’t buy CDs anymore. However, we are creating a vinyl of ‘All Hail The Order’ because nothing can replace that classic sound and the crackling of the needle. Collectors love it, but this is more for us so that we can hang it on the wall. There are some purists who only buy vinyl now. It’s proper old school, but what can never be replaced are live shows.
M: Which country brings out the darkest vibes in you?
Rotted Skull: Both Germany and England as well as the Northern European countries as their medieval history is gloriously gloomy and sombre. We love all that.
Ragnar Wagnar: Gibraltar was a brutal place also and Toledo with the inquisition. Hard-core mass masochistic murder on a genocide scale. Masochism in disguise, they just wanted an excuse to kill. That was terrible and we can see that the history of mankind is evil.
M: Shall we talk a little about your Record Producer, Gullermo ‘Willy’ Maya?
Ragnar Wagnar: Guillermo is great. We’re bros and he knows our music. He joined us for ‘Cultura’ in 2004 and has been involved in everything since then. When we proposed this project to him he got right behind it.
Rotted Skull: He loves his heavy metal and is into a lot of the same bands as we are.
Ragnar Wagnar: He set up a studio hidden in the mountain range close to Madrid and towering over it is the Dictator Franco’s tomb. You just look up and that murderous monster is lurking over you, you can’t get much more negative than that. It helps us tap into those evil vibes. The music business isn’t what it was before when you had a record company throwing money at you. That’s over, even for the big bands. The internet has taken its toll on the music business. Willy liked our stuff and offered us a really good deal to spend a couple of weeks at his studio to record the drums and a few bits and bobs. The vocals, lead, rhythms and bass were recorded back in our main studio in London.
M: Let’s talk about this new album.
Ragnar Wagnar: It will be called ‘Evil Rising’ and we will continue using our main character ‘El Hombre Cabra’, the goat man. In true ‘Llanito’ style we kept his name in Spanish and whereas Iron Maiden may have ‘Eddie’, we have ‘El Hombre Cabra’. He is a Ragnar Vagnar type of character in that he is a sort of pagan monk. We will have quotes in Latin to give that authentic feel, like ‘Legionem sum Rex sum’, I am Legion, I am King. People look at me bizarrely when I go down this road and I guess it’s like a quirky heavy metal pagan sermon. We have amazing backdrops, and characters who dress up as werewolves and satanic nymphs. I also have a mike stand that is a crucifix which has a small red light bulb that creates a spooky feel. It is all themed and if we had a larger budget our shows would be more spectacular and we’d have a castle on stage or something.
Rotted Skull: The album is already written. We have seventeen songs and we will start recording three of them in October. The music and lyrical content has progressed ten-fold. It’s extremely historical and includes real stories from the dark and decadent medieval world. We have really progressed in this second album. We were experimental in the beginning, but now we are the real deal.
Ragnar Wagnar: We have stuff on Gilles de Rais. He was Joan of Arch’s companion-in-arms. They killed him because he was a paedophile who then murdered his victims, but if you read the true story it’s plain to see that he was framed. King Charles VII wanted to do away with her once she had served her purpose and used Rais as a scapegoat, demonising him as the scourge of God. The new material is really dark and layered with historical truths that might not make your school curriculum.
M: Are you excited to be back for BloodStock?
The Order has been promoted to being the opening act on the Sophie Lancaster Stage (the second main stage) at 11.30am on Saturday, we played on the more modest Jägermeister stage in 2014. That means that we have the whole day to enjoy the other bands and get drunk. There will probably be around 8,000 to 10,000 people in a huge tent, so even if it rains, we will be ok.
M: How hard is it to feature in a festival of this stature?
Ragnar Wagnar: It’s difficult to break into the line-up in this type of festival. We are talking about thousands of bands applying for places. People think that it’s easy, it’s not and it’s bloody difficult. This is the biggest metal festival in the UK. We play on the same day as ‘Gojira’, ‘Slayer’ and ‘Mastodon’. Rubbing shoulders with these big bands just shows you that you are doing something right.
M: Have you ever had any of the big guns comment on your music?
Ragnar Wagnar: One of my heroes, King Diamond, gave us a personal call to say that he liked what we were doing. I couldn’t believe it when he rang. The music business is cold and it was out of the ordinary to receive such inspirational words from a legend in the industry.
M: Any interesting anecdotes from Bloodstock last time around?
Ragnar Wagnar: It was quite funny last time at Bloodstock. Security wouldn’t allow me backstage dressed as Ragnar Vagnar because Dave Mustaine from thrash metal band ‘Megadeath’ is a born again Christian. I had my full pagan attire with crucifixes and skulls when I was stopped by his entourage that nearly collapsed backwards at the sight of me. One of them politely asked me if I could wait until Mustaine left the area as he could get offended by my presence. That was hilarious.
M: When will The Order spread its message to Gibraltar?
We will play anywhere where we can spread the evil. We would love to come to Gibraltar and enlist some minions but it will be difficult to gain support because of the nature of our theme. However, we have been thinking of maybe hiring a venue for ourselves as it is unlikely that a promoter would have us on The Rock. But you never know, we could do a more private affair and rent the Rock on the Rock club for a special gig or something. It would be very theatrical and we would bring our satanic nymphs that appear in the ‘Death Ride Blues’ video to give us a real show. Gibraltar would love them. We haven’t really chatted to Paul (Isola, lead singer of Breed 77 and close friend) about this but I am sure that, even though he is not a fulltime promoter, he would be interested. He edited our first video ‘Burn Witch, Burn’ that we created in London and then sent over to him. He also came up for the weekend to see us at Lorca festival. We are bros and we see each other regularly.
Ragnar Wagnar: We have been invited many times to conduct music clinics around the UK and elsewhere. Sometimes when we finished our sound check in a particular place we would then give a lecture to music students and share our experience. We would love to do this in Gibraltar, but we cannot just barge in, we have to be invited. Having said that, just say the word and we will jump on our broomsticks to return to The Rock.