Fleetburner may be a new band in town, but they’ve wasted no time putting their best foot forward with their namesake debut album, Fleetburner, released in September 2020 on Butler Records. In order to best tell the album’s story, Dutch guitarist Kevin Storm hand-picked the other international talents, including American vocalist Ken Simerly, Finnish keyboardist Veli-Matti Kananen (Kalmah, Vintergata), Swedish bassist Peter Iwers (ex-In Flames, ex-Cyhra), and Norwegian drummer Tomas Myklebust (Mistur, Galar).
In the interview below with Metal Solstice, Storm gave deeply personal insight into how Fleetburner formed, how he and others relate to Fleetburner’s concept, and his vision for the band’s auspicious future.
Before we dive in, though, it’s important to understand the craft behind this full-length, genre-defying work of art. The album is largely progressive and atmospheric, but not married to one style of metal. Instead, Storm and company illustrate the protagonist’s journey, teeming with images of trial and discovery- both oceanic and within the main character himself.
“The Land” introduces the storyline gently, followed by “The Beach”, a particularly progressive-sounding track that also features Sirenia guitarist Nils Courbaron. Later in the album, “The Course” features memorable, doom-inspired riffs and “The Endless” serves as a heavy punctuation mark. Each band member has a chance to shine on this album, no instrument or vocal particularly overshadowing the other; not only a testament to each composition, but to the album’s careful mixing and mastering by Hans Pieters.
On Fleetburner’s social media accounts, the band has also mentioned a second album, its creation perhaps expedited due to the ongoing pandemic. Facebook and Instagram posts also recently hinted at an announcement, or perhaps even new material, due February 5, 2021.
Kevin Storm: I started the album by myself. It started as a project, a story that I really needed to get out of my system. As you figured out, I met Tomas on a tour with Vulture Industries where we were both session musicians. We ended that tour by saying, “We should totally start a band.” Fleetburner became a very, very personal story that needed to be released from my system and to get this to a full band I really only wanted to work with people that I trusted; people I toured with and knew had their hearts in the right place. I have a very particular view on making music and a lot of it centers around the magic of people putting themselves in their instruments. I believe in music as catharsis.
The people I invited are all very special people in their own way and I can honestly say these are people I know create music in a way that comes from the heart. Every one of these people infused the album with what that first version of the album did to them. It’s their version of what I was saying and it proves how aligned we were that this came together so effortlessly.
MS: Did the pandemic limit the group’s ability to collaborate across countries and continents, or did it give you more time to work on music and video content?
Storm: The music was intercontinental already, I believe the recording process would not have been any different if the world had been the same as before.
MS: Once proper touring can resume, do you have plans to bring Fleetburner to the stage?
Storm: Yes. Fleetburner needs to be heard live; there is so much going on in the story and the music that every single time we do this it will be a new experience. I believe an album to be a capture of one way to hear the music. You shape the sounds and sentiments the way you feel them at that moment, but I can easily see this music becoming a completely different experience on stage. It all depends on the mindset of those playing or mixing it. That can change overnight, which is why I love live music so much.
MS: In your own words, can you briefly discuss Fleetburner’s concept? Will the same storyline continue into future releases?
Storm: I believe it’s something universal. the fact that all these musicians gathered around this single totem pole that has been shaped into Fleetburner proves that a lot of people can connect to it. The reactions so far have been unbelievable.
I believe a lot of people connect to it on very deep levels. For me it’s about leaving things behind. Building new worlds, murdering your past self and leaving behind everything that tried to drag you down.
To Ken, our singer, it’s a different, but equally emotional ride. My version of the story, the album I wrote before the others came onboard, is that of the young child that is surrounded by harmful people. The child needs to learn to navigate its own emotions, the world around it and how harmful that world can be.
That, for me, was a very long and arduous path and led me to a point where I have learned to come to terms with the fact that the world is simply not what I dream it to be. The young man will have to deal with this world, and fleeing is not always an option. The fleet will follow, hurt is inescapable. For some it’s not survivable, but to me one of the most important lines in the whole album is, “Eyes ahead, chin up, run”.
MS: Tell me about your relationship with Butler Records and why that came to be the right home for Fleetburner’s first album.
Storm: Butler is the label that believed in the music. In the story, in the people. Of course I tried the major labels, but nowadays if you don’t wear a mask, or can explain your carnival-theme band in a single line, people aren’t interested anymore.
This may sound bitter, but believe me, you would be astounded to learn what I’ve learned in the process. Top 10’s being bought and paid for, bands being broken up over money issues. The money aspect of it is horrendous.
MS: Gustavo Sazes and artist Stuz0r have been involved with the logo and artwork on this debut release, respectively. How has your own artwork also been incorporated into Fleetburner’s materials, e.g. the lyric video?
Storm: I always used to do my own artwork. For this album I really didn’t want to end up with a “I could have done that better” feeling. If you bring others onboard you are either inspired by them, or you hate it. In the case of Stuz0r and Gustavo, I will never not love their work. To have their art on this, is an honor beyond words.
MS: This Fleetburner album release was in the works for a while, with videos on YouTube over a year in advance. What do you hope that people take away from listening to it?
Storm: I just want people to get into this with no preconceptions, no descriptions. If you expect this to be a doom album, you’ll criticize it. If you want a prog album, you’ll miss the essence; and if you love the black metal edges, you’ll be disappointed in the softer passages.
This album is a story, not a genre. I wish we could go back to those days where people cried over albums, over stories. Over Johnny Cash and Nick Cave, Kate Bush and Jeff Buckley. And then forget that this is a metal album and just hear it for what it was born as; a story.
Check out Fleetburner’s “Below the waves” music video from their debut album Fleetburner: