In Extremo (Latin: At the Edge) is a German medieval metal band originating from Berlin. The band's musical style combines metal with medieval traditional songs, blending the sound of the standard rock/metal instruments with historical instruments (such as bagpipes, harp, hurdy-gurdy and shawm). Versions of well-known traditional/medieval ballads make up the main part of their repertoire, but the band has written an increasing share of original material in recent years. Their own material is written in German, whilst the traditional songs are in a variety of languages, including Gaelic, Spanish, English, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, French, Estonian, Galician, Hebrew, Latin, Occitan and Old High German.
In Extremo (abbreviated InEx, or just IE) began as two projects: a nameless, purely medieval band, and a rock band. They became known at that time through frequent appearances at medieval market meetings, at which they performed their acoustic pieces and sold CDs of their renditions of traditional songs. During the recording for the 1995 season, Michael Rhein (alias Das letzte Einhorn, engl. "The Last Unicorn") found the project name "In Extremo," Latin for "At The Edge."
Most of the band members perform under stage names. The initial members of the medieval band were Das letzte Einhorn (engl. "The Last Unicorn," vocals), Flex der Biegsame (engl. "Flex the Flexible," bagpipes), Dr. Pymonte (bagpipes), Conny Fuchs (who left the band before the official release date, due to her pregnancy by Dr. Pymonte) and Sen Pusterbalg (replaced shortly after the official release by Yellow Pfeiffer, engl. "Yellow Piper," bagpipes). The rock band originally consisted of Thomas der Münzer (engl. "Thomas the Coiner," guitar), Der Morgenstern (engl. "The Morning Star," drums), and Die Lutter (engl. "The Lutter," bass guitar). Der Münzer subsequently left the band and, as of 2007[update], the band's guitarist is Van Lange (engl. "The Long One"). As noted below, almost all of the band members play multiple instruments.
The increasing number of visitors, success of their CDs, and the popular interest, as well as cross-pollination from groups such as Corvus Corax and Bathory, encouraged In Extremo in 1995 to attempt to start a band combining bagpipes and other traditional instruments with rock guitars. The result was the current incarnation of In Extremo, a rock group that integrates modern instruments like the drum set, electric bass and guitar with the acoustic elements previously used for the medieval songs, and which plays both types of music as well as a hybrid of the two.
In August 1996, they began work on the first In Extremo album, which already contained two tracks of the new rock project. Because the album had no official name, it became known as In Extremo Gold because of the golden covers. In February 1997, like the single Der Galgen (engl. "The Gallows"), it quickly sold out in Medieval markets.
In Extremo played separately as a medieval and a rock band, until on March 29, 1997, when they played their first live rock concert. Since that time, they have given this date as their date of establishment. The two projects were officially merged on January 11, 1998. April 1998 saw the first "high occupancy" In Extremo concert in the Rabenstein castle in Brandenburg.
Over the years, their music became more heavy metal based, while at the same time becoming increasingly commercially successful. The classical instruments, however – bagpipes, shawms, and lutes – still play a large role. The band is likewise noted for their conspicuous stage costumes and known for using pyrotechnics in their concerts, including Der Morgenstern playing cymbals which have been set on fire.
On 26 February 2010 In Extremo announced that Der Morgenstern left the band because of musical differences via their homepage. On June 11, Florian "Specki T.D." Speckardt was announced as his replacement on drums.
Besides the electric guitar, bass, and drum set, In Extremo defines itself by unconventional (for a rock band) instruments mainly of medieval origin. They include hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, Uilleann Pipes, shawm, nyckelharpa, harp, cittern, tromba marina, hammered dulcimer, Klangbaum, and various types of drums and percussion. Bagpipes are the most conspicuous of these instruments, as Dr. Pymonte, Yellow Pfeiffer, and Flex der Biegsame all play bagpipes, sometimes all three at once. All of the band members play multiple instruments, and frequently rotate instruments between songs; Das letzte Einhorn frequently plays a cittern during certain songs, such as Ai Vis A Lo Lop.
Their bagpipes were partially made by Dr. Pymonte, but are also partially built by a well-known pipe builder. The band also uses a custom-built frame drum covered in zebra skin, called Das Pferd (engl. "The Horse"). Most of the other acoustic instruments, such as their shawms, are only made by a few other instrument builders.
Style and Lyrics
Some lyrics are not written by the band, but come – like the instruments – from traditional songs written during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
Many of the lyrics to the band's repertoire of medieval songs come from church writings (e.g. Merseburger Zaubersprüche, Wessebronner Gebet), Benedictine writings (e.g. Raue See), or are "trad. arr.", meaning traditional songs with unknown authors, rearranged by the band (e.g. Tannhuser, Poc Vecem). The band also frequently uses songs from the Carmina Burana, a medieval collection of songs, as well as lyrics written as poetry by the 15th-century French poet François Villon (Rotes Haar, engl. "Red Hair," and Erdbeermund, engl. "Strawberry Mouth," translated into German by Paul Zech).
The band also uses poems from later writers such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Der Rattenfänger, engl. "The Ratcatcher") and Ludwig Uhland, who wrote Des Sängers Fluch (engl. "The Singer's Curse") – which In Extremo changed to be called Spielmannsfluch (engl. "The Minstrel's Curse"). For the album Mein Rasend Herz, In Extremo originally wrote the lyrics to the song "Liam" in German, after which it was translated into Gaelic by Rea Garvey, who was also a guest singer on the song.
Their first major appearance was in the first part of the computer game Gothic. Some time in the game, a group of traveling musicians called 'In-Extremo' plays their version of the song "Herr Mannelig", from the album Verehrt und Angespien; by the gallows outside the Old Camp Castle.
With their success, the music programs also began to pay attention to In Extremo. They were invited on the television program Viva Interactive, where they gave a fifteen-minute call-and-response and played two songs. They rejected at that time an invitation to Top of the Pops to play Küss Mich (engl. "Kiss Me"), because it was, according to Das letzte Einhorn, not their environment. Nevertheless, they did accept a further invitation to TotP in 2005 and played Nur Ihr Allein (engl. "Only You Alone").
At the same time, their audience grew with live appearances, from marketplaces to festivals like Rock Am Ring, the Taubertal Festival, and the Nova Rock in Austria. Their largest public appearance however, had In Extremo opening for the farewell tour of Böhse Onkelz in June 2005, with about 120,000 spectators.
In Extremo last participated on February 9, 2006, in the Bundesvision Song Contest of Stefan Raab for the Free State of Thuringia; Das letzte Einhorn was born in Dingelstädt (Eichsfeld), and grew up in Leinefelde. Both cities lie in North Thuringia. The group occupied the third spot with "Liam (German)". Before, they had introduced themselves on February 2 on the TV show TV Total.
In Extremo played further in 2006 at the Wacken Open Air, as well as on the M'era Luna Festival in Hildesheim. At the end of 2006 they played in the framework their "10 Year Anniversary Tour" in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
The first In Extremo album that attracted attention was Verehrt und Angespien (engl. "Worshipped and Spat At"). It achieved an at the time sensational 11th place in the German album charts. The subsequent album, Sünder ohne Zügel (engl. "Unbridled Sinners"), got to the 10th place.
The band had much success with the album "7"; it came in 3rd place on the German charts. The video of the single Küss Mich was frequently shown on German music television. The singles reached high chart placements.
The eighth album Mein Rasend Herz (engl. "My Raging Heart") achieved third place on the album charts in 2005. Three singles were published from this album: Nur Ihr Allein (engl. "Only You Alone") on May 17, 2005, Horizont (engl. "Horizon") on September 12, 2005, and "Liam (German)" on February 3, 2006. On February 10, 2006, the second live CD/DVD, "Raue Spree", was published, coming in at 4th place of the German charts. In addition, the CD "7" and the DVD "Raue Spree" achieved gold status at the beginning of 2007.
The ninth album Sängerkrieg (engl. "Singers' War") went first place on the album charts of Germany on May 23, 2008. In Austria it reached the thirteenth and in Switzerland the twenty-second place. In Germany it was the 41st best-selling album of the year in 2008.