Technical wizardry, metallic power, strong melodic sensibilities and immaculate songcraft are all hallmarks of the new, and some would say improved, Sieges Even.
The German progressive-rock group that came into being in 1988 when guitarist Markus Steffen and bass player Oliver Holzwarth founded their first band in Munich, and then recruited Oliver's brother, Alex, to play drums and Franz Herde to sing.
Through a series of personnel changes, Sieges Even managed to release a slew of well-received albums that challenged listeners with their instrumental complexity and intelligent lyrics, but in 1992, after releasing the A Sense Of Change LP, Steffen left the band, and Sieges Even played a farewell show in Wiesbaden that summer.
But Sieges Even wasn't dead yet. The Holzwarth brothers continued with Sieges Even — making two albums and even scoring a tour slot with Emerson, Lake & Palmer — while Steffen pursued modern classical guitar projects. Then, around 1999, Sieges Even was retired in favor of Looking-Glass-Self, a project that saw the Holzwarths reuniting with Steffen. The three recorded together, but something was missing — namely, a lead singer whose vocal style and expertise fit with the group.
Enter Arno Menses. This new version of Sieges Even performed its first reunion show in 2004. Since then, the group has released two albums, The Art of Navigatingby the Stars and Paramount, two efforts that displayed a more song-oriented approach than past works.
A live album called Playgrounds is Sieges Even's latest, and with most of the set list coming from The Art of Navigating by the Stars and Paramount, the record documents the group's most recent evolution. Steffen talks about where the band is today in this interview.
Goldmine: With Playgrounds, you've delivered your first live album. Why did you choose to mainly concentrate on material from The Art of Navigating By The Stars and Paramount?
Markus Steffen: Well, both albums represent the beginning of a new era for Sieges Even. That’s mainly because of our new singer, Arno Menses. And we simply wanted to show people how the music of Paramount and Navigating sounds like on stage. But to be perfectly honest, it would have been great if we had the chance to release a double CD with even more songs from our past. But that was not in our hands…. maybe next time, maybe a DVD?
GM: Before The Art of Navigating By The Stars, you had an eight-year hiatus, during which time you were looking for another singer and trying new things. And then you emerged with a more song-oriented approach than maybe what you were known for in the past. What prompted a move in that direction?
MS: We are musicians, and as musicians we are aiming for progress. I mean, it’s kinda boring to write the same music over and over again. You know, it’s not that hard to write complicated music that can impress people. It is far more difficult to actually write a song that reaches out to people, that is able to touch people with a simple melody and structure. Of course, we don’t wanna write trivial music, so we try to hide and embed the musical complexity in the song and its structure. Another reason for our development into that direction was Arno, who brought new influences (e.g. AOR) into the band.
GM: How did you reconcile the desire to make aurally interesting records with lots of musical acrobatics with that newfound interest in more structured songs that maybe put more emphasis on melody and arrangements, and did you think this approach might upset some fans?
MS: As I said before, we try to hide and embed those ‘acr