Looking for a new guilty power metal pleasure? Check out Slovakia’s Signum Regis. The band, active since 2007, and producing five full-length studio albums and one E.P., has recently released Decennium Primum, a sensory assault of near Dragonforce-like musicianship and Stratovarius-soaked grand melodic posturing. This new album is perhaps the most accurate snapshot of what the band delivers, as the guys have truly seemed to have found their strongest musical voice after capitalizing upon their equally powerful 2015 album, Chapter IV: The Reckoning.
Originally tapping ex-Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist Goran Edman, who appeared on the band’s first three studio albums, and featuring an ensemble of vocalists like ex-Malmsteen/Loudness frontman Michael Vescera and Gloryhammer’s Thomas J. Winkler on their 2013 Exodus album, the band settled in comfortably with Mayo Petranin for Chapter IV. After weather a few lineup changes along the way, currently consisting of Petranin, founding bassist Ronnie Konig, guitarist Filip Kolus, Jan Tupy on keyboards, and drummer Jaro Jancula, the band has been consistently making a name for itself within mainland Europe with appearances at festivals like The Netherlands’ Fearless Festival, Skjaergards Music and Mission Festival in Norway, and the Czech Republic’s Made of Metal. Currently on the independent ticket, they’ve tasted worldwide distribution through labels like Spain’s Locomotive Records and Sweden’s Ulterium.
Signum Regis is categorized by many as a “Christian metal” band, but they’re actually so much more – drop the band into a main stage slot at Wacken and they’d deliver as well as a Hammerfall or Blind Guardian set. Metal Insider caught up with bassist Ronnie Konig to talk about the new Decennium Primum album, the band’s inner workings and how they feel about that Christian metal tag, as well as the past, present, and future of Signum Regis.
So, 2017 marks the ten-year anniversary of the band. How would you look at the band’s musical evolution over that time? What do you think has been the band’s biggest strength?
Basically every band evolves, but the fans not always appreciate it. You have many big bands, where the fans like their first or second album the most and then the rest of their career is about trying to repeat the initial success one more time. This is absolutely not our case. Although we love our debut album, there was no big success back then. We have been growing very slowly but steadily. With every album our sales went up and the fan base grew. With the new album, we hear again, that this is our best album so far. Our strength is the consistency, hard work, productivity, guitar virtuosity and melodic approach.
I want to note what an incredible choice the band made in having Mayo Petranin on vocals for the last two albums. He really fits well into the sound. What is it like working with Mayo as opposed to someone like Goran Edman?
Göran is a professional and he had been a professional before I got my first bass. He is a great singer and a great guy, but he lives a thousand miles away and he is musically all over the place. Mayo is the guy living the next door away, who is always available and eager to go all-in for our band, very passionate about what we do and has a great voice. Mayo and Göran have different voices and ranges, but we were able to deal with that without changing our style or sound. We just play in different tunings in some cases. That’s it.
Speaking of vocalists, on your Exodus album, you featured a number of different singers. What was that experience like for you?
Looking back at that period, the best thing about it was that we met new people from this particular part of the music scene, made friends and broadened our fan base. Contacts and relations are extremely important. We wouldn’t even have Mayo without that. He was one of the guests on that album and that’s how we got to know him better. So relations, that’s one side of it. The other side is the musical one, obviously. We were fortunate, that all of the singers did a wonderful job. We didn’t have to ask any one of them to send a different take or to fix anything. Great voices, amazing job by all of them.
Your music is very complex and musically challenging, but it seems like the melody rules over all. How do you keep this amazing sense of melody when you write?
Maybe it has to do with the fact, that I write all the music down before I hear it interpreted by real people. You know how they say, “That guy could sing from phonebook and it would still sound great!” Well, I am not that kind of a singer myself and I compose alone, so I can’t get tricked into thinking, that a poor melody is actually good, because my voice sounds so great. It’s about going to the very basics with the melody first. When you are happy with the melody in its purest form (i.e. played by a piano), you can only make it sound better with a good interpretation, vibrato, harmonies and arrangements. That’s one thing. The other thing is the chord progression that goes under the melody. They work together. I am always keeping in mind how the chord progression creates the whole framework for the melody.
Tell me about how Decennium Primum came to be. How and when was it recorded? Did you spend a lot of time on any one aspect of the album’s sound?
This album was 100% produced by us. We recorded it in our studio and I mixed and also mastered it. We spend really a lot of time and paid a lot of attention to how it will sound at the end of the day. At this point, we couldn’t be happier about the result. The reason, why I am saying it now is that it is one thing to have your own opinion, but it’s another thing to hear it from other people. It is already confirmed in numerous comments from our fans. They like the sound very much. They appreciate, that every instrument is audible. Someone pointed out, that he didn’t have to read the lyrics, while listening to the vocals, because, they were so clear. We also didn’t do sound replacing on sounds. No triggers or third-party library samples were used. The drums that you hear are the drums that our drummer played on. That’s why there is a lot of dynamics and authenticity. In the past, we would usually do the mix and let it be stem-mastered by a pro in a pro studio, but this time it’s all done in-house and it looks like a big success, when we talk about the production.
I know you’ve been labeled a Christian band by some critics, but I don’t see an overwhelming sense of that Christian label in your music, other than the universal sense of positivity in the lyrics or maybe some references in song titles. Do you consider yourselves a Christian band?
I am Christian and many of the lyrics that I wrote are biblical, but I don’t think that the band as a whole is entitled to be labelled “Christian”. Of course, it depends on the definition, but the truth is, that not everyone in the band is religious. We are a mixed band. It’s not like I would have a personal problem with that label, but I am telling you like it is. I don’t want to lead anyone into thinking, that we are missionaries. That would simply not be true and I definitely don’t want to be like one of those fake Christian bands, who just use this label to sell more records. I don’t mean any band in particular, but I have heard that there are some out there.
I know the band has played several festivals in Europe. Any particularly great experiences you’d like to share about them?
It’s always great to be out there for a couple of days, the whole band, have fun, tell jokes and enjoy the life this way. No special or funny stories on my mind right now, but generally I would say, that when the sound is good, when the crowd is there, it’s awesome!
I found your music with the last album – Chapter IV. Since then, I’ve always thought of the band as a cross between Evergrey and Stratovarius – two of my favorites. I mention this because these are two bands that really have a wide appeal – and I can see the same happening for Signum Regis. Have you found that a wide variety of rock and metal fans appreciate your music?
Like everyone else, I too live in a little Facebook bubble and hear opinions from within, so who knows about the bigger picture. But, it definitely appears to me that our fans listen to many, many bands and genres. For sure, it’s not the case that our fans are fanatical about one specific sub-genre. They are pretty open minded and musically educated, so to say.
I know that the new album is an independent release, and you have worked very hard to get to where you are now. Would you like to be on a big label like Nuclear Blast, or have you found that having control over your own music is the right thing?
I must mention here, that this whole “going independent” idea was not really the plan and that we have nothing against being under a label. There is a story behind it. A year ago, we won a prestigious band contest organized by the top rock magazine in Czech Republic called SPARK. 400 bands from 2 countries (Czech & Slovak Republic) and we won it. Just like that, the first place for being the best live band. The first price was getting professional printing of CDs for free. It was quite problematic to combine the price with an official label release. That’s how we spontaneously became an independent band. We could have chosen otherwise, but we were like, “Ok, let’s try something new, let’s do this, when we have this special opportunity.” We weren’t fired, we weren’t unhappy with the label or anything like that. I can see us being a signed band again in the future. And, where to sign a new deal? Well, let’s see, who will be interested in signing us. I can see us being back at Ulterium Records, because they did an amazing progress with us, but let’s see if they want us back too. We haven’t spoken to anyone yet. I guess it will all come down to how successful Decennium Primum is going to be and what kind of a material we will be able to offer in 2018/2019.
What is the metal scene like in Slovakia?
Not so good for our kind of metal in general, but better than it used to be. Very few bands playing this style and we pretty much know each other, it’s such a small scene. When it comes to concert opportunity for fans, it’s ok. You have big bands like Iron Maiden playing here; you have club shows for smaller, but well known bands. So, in this regard, I can’t really complain.
What do you like best about being in this band at the present time? What makes Signum Regis special for you?
I have dedicated a big part of my life to music and all my efforts are being materialized primarily in Signum Regis. I love the fellow band members and they are my best friends too. With that said, this band means a lot to me and I feel like I am being blessed on our musical journey.
Visit Signum Regis online at signum-regis.com.