- AOTY 2013
- The Wretched End
- Corrosion Of Conformity
- October File
- Anaal Nathrakh
Albums Of The Year 2013 - Staff Picks
It's that time of year when we look back on the incredible metal albums of the previous 12 months. So to kick things off, below is the Top 5 Albums of The Year from the Candlelight Records UK staff. We tried to remain impartial... Mostly.
Darren Toms (Label Manager / A&R Candlelight)
Editors - Weight Of Your Love
White Lies - Big Tv
Pet Slimmers Of The Year - Fragments Of Uniforms
Beastmilk - Climax
W.E.T - Rise Up
Steve Beatty (Director)
Wardruna - Yggdrasil
Sahg Ė Delusions Of Grandeur
Amebix - Amebix
Orange Goblin Ė A Eulogy For The Fans
Burzum - SŰl austan, M‚ni vestan
Conor Droney (Digital Manager & Candlelight Records A&R)
Carcass - Surgical Steel
Deafheaven - Sunbather
Cult Of Luna - Vertikal
An Autumn For Crippled Children - Try Not To Destroy Everything You Love
Locrian - Return To Annihilation
Dan Bond (Digital)
Diamond Plate - Pulse
Motorhead Ė Aftershock
Airbourne Ė Black Dog Barking
Voivod Ė Target Earth
Iwrestledabearonce Ė Late For Nothing
The Wretched End
Norwayís new masters of blackened, deathly thrash futurism are back with their second album, the crushing Inroads. Founder member and guitar maestro Samoth spoke with us about the past, present and future of his latest bandÖ
What's been happening since the release of the first album?
“Basically we’ve been busy writing ‘Inroads’. ‘Ominous’ came out at the end of 2010 and already by then we had started writing new material. We hit the studio again in the summer of 2011, so there wasn’t really that much time in between. It was important for us not to let too much time pass before we followed up with another album. In today’s music market the lifespan of an album is even shorter than it used to be, and it was also important for us to let people know that The Wretched End wasn’t just a one-off side project kind of thing.”
How do you feel about the first record now? Do you think it got the attention it deserved?
“I think it’s a good record and overall I’m still quite happy about it. Of course, there are always things we could have done better or differently, looking back at it, but that’s always the case anyway. One thing might have been that we were a bit too eager, and ‘Ominous’ became a little bit too long for its own good. Basically it had too many songs on it, and thus lost a bit of that wholeness feel. That was something we were more focused on with ‘Inroads’. It feels more complete as a whole album. But ‘Ominous’ was a good debut album and it was well received by both fans and press, but at the same time I feel that it went a little bit under the radar and didn’t really get the attention it deserved.”
How would you describe the band's musical evolution between the debut and Inroads?
“We’ve basically followed up in the same style as the debut, but I feel we have gained a lot of having the experience from ‘Ominous’ to look back at. We felt more confident about where we were going when writing this album and I think we’ve perfected our sound. The new album also has a darker and almost epic vibe to it. It’s more powerful, both in terms of production and song writing. It has more of a blackened feel. That was also present on the debut, but that also had a strong thrash vibe in a lot of songs. You know, we’re not really set on a straightforward formula, and we allow ourselves to take in various influences from death, thrash and black metal and try to make that all flow well without being too schizophrenic in jumping between styles. I feel that ‘Inroads’ flows better in that sense. We’re not so set on labels; we play extreme metal, simple as that!”
Tell me about the recording process for this record...what were your main aims for the overall sound this time?
“The main aim was to build upon what we started with the first album and make an overall stronger album. The general vibe in the studio was very relaxed, I think. We all knew what to expect this time, as this is our second album and we were recording with the exact same line up, the same producer and the same studio. We were quite happy with the production and recording experience of ‘Ominous’, so we decided to go back to Strand Studio with engineer and producer Marius Strand. It made sense to us to build upon that sound and cooperation. We recorded the drums with Nils “Dominator” Fjellström at the end of August, and went back in for guitars and bass in October. In the meantime Cosmo had been working on vocals at his home studio. We actually recorded all vocals and electronics at Cosmo’s studio. We did a bit of the recording at his studio on ‘Ominous’ too.”
This album has a very vibrant, live feel to it...is that important to you? How much do you rely on technology in the studio?
“Thanks, that’s cool to hear! Yes, we did have that in mind when recording and producing the album. Even if we have a quite modern sounding production, it was important to not end up sounding too clinical and overproduced. We do rely a lot on technology though, it’s hard not to these days. Strand Studio doesn’t even have a mixing desk; it’s all through a computer. But if you know how to use the tools and get strong ground recordings, one can still keep some real feel.”
You guys obviously work well together as a team...is this a very different band from Zyklon or have you changed the way you approach making music over the years?
“Yes, it’s been a good and creative cooperation between Cosmo and I, and also with drummer Nils. Compared to Zyklon, The Wretched End is a bit of a different band. Basically, we’re a studio band. We’ve worked much more on an efficient and creative level, but it’s not been a full band setting like with Zyklon, where we used to meet up as a complete band and rehearse. With The Wretched End, Cosmo and I have written everything in our own home studios and then we’ve recorded a full pre-production of all the material. Drummer Nils has actually rehearsed all the songs on his own over in Sweden, with the pre-productions as the basis. This whole setting is definitely different from Zyklon, but I must say it’s been very good. With Zyklon, at least towards the end, it was hard to keep that creative flow. We often spent more time touring and keeping the live set strong, rather than having a well-organised and creative workflow. With The Wretched End part of the whole basis for the band was to enjoy the process of making music and try to keep it to a more efficient and inspiring level. It’s also a practical side to it where Cosmo and I live close by each other, which makes it easy to stay focused and organised, whereas Zyklon in the end, the band was spread out over four different cities.”
How did the lyrics come together for this album...and is there a concept behind the new album?
“This time I wrote most of the lyrics myself, with some contributions from my wife. Also on ‘Ominous’ I wrote many of the lyrics, but also then my wife had some input and my old friend Bård Faust wrote a couple as well. Many of the lyrics are quite descriptive and visual, while others have a more personal feel to them. We definitely wanted to follow up on the post-apocalyptic theme we presented on ‘Ominous’. I feel it’s more complete on ‘Inroads’, and even more dark and desolate. This album also has more of a rural feel to it. I’m sure that can mean different things to different people, but to me it has to do with personal surroundings and feelings, thoughts and inspirations that often are brought to the surface in these surroundings. We are located in the outskirts of a small city, more up in the mountains, and basically we’re countryside people at heart. The album title can also be a reflection on that, but it’s open for interpretation, really. I feel with the artwork, lyrics and music we try to create an overall atmosphere. Cormac McCarthy’s book ‘The Road’ has a bit of that feeling we’re trying to portray. Also the movie version had some great visuals that fit our concept.”
Where do you think The Wretched End fit into the Norwegian metal scene today? Do you still get black metal purists complaining about what you're doing? ;)
“To be honest I don’t think too much about fitting in. I’ve been in the scene for over 20 years now and I am who I am, and do what I do, regardless of the current state of the scene or whatever. To me being involved with music is basically a part of who I am as a person and to give that up would be like letting go of a part of myself. I still have a passion for this kind of music. I’m sure a lot of people have their own opinions and ideas on how I might be, should be or should sound like, and so on. Either way, I think The Wretched End has a strong foundation and I believe the general fan of extreme metal music would find us interesting.”
Is it hard to get people to focus on what you're doing now instead of Emperor/Zyklon?
“It is hard to establish a new music project, especially in today’s music market, where the conditions for the true artist is harder and harder. In regards to Emperor and Zyklon, I’m proud of all my accomplishments with those bands, and have no problem with being linked to them really. I’ll rather use it for what’s its worth rather than trying to fight the battle of not having people compare the past to the present. Sometimes you got to accept things as they are and just do your thing, and let other people deal with their own opinions and ideas. I’ve been a fan of music since I was a kid, I have had fave bands myself that I never wanted to change, and I’ve also been a purist in the early years, so basically I know the scoop, ha ha! It’s 20 years ago since we first recorded with Emperor, so the fact that I’m still around releasing albums today and have a fan base around the world, is pretty fucking cool. Of course, I do encourage all Emperor fans to go out and show your support and buy the new The Wretched End album!”
Could you tell us about the video ĎDeath By Natureí?
“Yeah, we filmed the video in rural Norway in cooperation with the contemporary artist Vex. We’ve shot band footage and combined it with more dark and obscure scenes, mostly based around nature in some way. We did some quite interesting stuff in the filming process, like for instance time-lapsed a real decaying moose head in an old barn. The video was a total DIY project, and a learning process for everyone involved, but it has turned out well and I’m excited to also have this video as a promo tool for the new album. In the album recording process we’ve also actively used YouTube videos from the studio to keep some activity going on our Facebook, etc.”
What are your touring plans for 2012?
ďThere are no touring plans actually. As things stand today, The Wretched End is still a creative force based as a studio project. This may seem strange to some, but this is how we work at the moment. What the future will bring remains to see.Ē
Do you see The Wretched End as a long-term band now? And how do you think your sound will evolve next time?
ďYes, I definitely feel weíve created something to build on. Itís been a good process since we first started working on this band in 2008 until now, in 2012, when we are just about to release our second full-length album. We already have ideas for the next album and Iím confident weíll keep the metal machinery going. Itís hard to say exactly were we are going musically, but weíve laid down the basis for our sound I think, and we can only try to push ourselves harder to strengthen our sound further.Ē
Corrosion Of Conformity
Interview by Dom Lawson (Metal Hammer)
For the first time in over two decades, Corrosion Of Conformity have reverted back to the three-man line-up that recorded the seminal crossover classic Animosity back in 1985. With Mike Dean on bass and vocals, Woody Weatherman on guitar and drummer Reed Mullin back behind the kit for the first time since 2000’s America’s Volume Dealer, the band are reliving their youth and making one hell of a genre-shattering racket on their new self-titled album. As Mike Dean explains, some things are just meant to be…
The band has had a somewhat fragmented recent history. Why has it taken so long to make a new record and how did you end up returning to the line-up that made Animosity way back in 1985?
Mike Dean (bass/vocals): “Like you said, we’ve been doing it in fits and starts for the last little while. We’ve been kind of working Pepper’s schedule. He was such a big part of what we were doing, you know? So I guess we decided to do something without him so that we could really do it all the time and make it a full-time thing. We’ve come up with something that we can keep doing and we don’t have to wait around for someone else’s schedule to work out in our favour.”
When did Reed come back into the fold?
MD: “I’d been kind of out of contact with Reed since he quit the band. It was a combination of things being maybe not that good between him and the rest of us, as far as creative collaboration and also he was suffering from some kind of spinal issues. I don’t know what he did to himself, but most likely just from playing the drums really hard and banging his head and craning his neck to sing, doing something really athletic but without training or warming up. So it was kind of a combination of those things that led him away and he was getting married a couple of years ago and he invited me to his wedding, which I couldn’t make because I was working but I made it to the reception and I managed to say hello. Shortly after that, he was just playing music with a guy named Jason Browning. Woody had moved away from North Carolina and moved up to the mountains of Virginia, so me, Jason and Reed were doing something that we were calling Righteous Fool. So we’d been doing that since about 2008 and it was cool reconnecting with Reed and seeing that he’s a better drummer than ever. Playing some stuff that was in a kinda different vein was a lot of fun.”
How did that turn into the rebirth of COC?
MD: “We started getting a lot of offers to do festivals in Europe with Pepper and all that, and he mentioned all these invitations and we were all set to go and do High Voltage in London, and then we didn’t hear back and it turned out that Down was doing it and there were a couple of other festivals and Down was doing those too. Someone joked that we should just go back to being a three-piece and since some anniversary of Animosity was coming up we thought it would be great to exploit that and play those old songs again. The next thing we know, we came up with some good new material and worked it into the set right away and that’s how we arrived here today.”
This line-up was last active in the 80s, so was the chemistry between the three of you natural and did it feel like stepping back in time?
MD: “A little bit. I think it kinda felt that way when we took on re-learning the older material for the live set we were intending to play. It kinda was like stepping back in time, but it’s very easy to interact with those guys making music. It’s second nature doing it and from having, as Reed is fond of saying, from learning to play music together. The other point is that there’s not that other guitar taking up that space and there’s nowhere to hide. You can’t fake anything. Everyone’s mistakes are gonna be really apparent. If Woody fucks up a chord at a particular moment in time, it’s gonna sound wrong, you know? So everyone has had to step up, myself included. It’s a little different too, because the last time I sang and played bass I mostly played with a pick and so working the finger style into that over the years has been interesting. It’s worked out good.”
How vividly do you remember those Animosity days?
MD: “Yeah, I remember some stuff! Reed was 17 and he’d had that drum set for a year and another drum set for a year before that. I’d just dropped out of high school, so I’d say the median age at the time was 18 or 19. It was a long time ago. It was a weird, whirlwind existence. We’d tour a lot and live in a van and a place to stay would be somebody’s house and their way of entertaining us would be keeping us awake all night, so I definitely need somebody to fill in the blanks for me on some of those days! I remember some incidents and the general plot, but as far as the actual chronology of what happened, someone might need to clue me in and I’ll take their word for it. There are other people who remember those days a lot better, so maybe they had fewer head injuries than me or something! Ha ha ha!”
The industry, you as people & the world have all changed since Animosity…is it easy to reconnect with those old songs and how you felt when you were that young?
MD: “Yeah, I think so. It’s hard to say from my point of view if it’s completely reconnecting with it or if it’s a new version of experiencing it, but I think there’s a certain amount of reconnecting with the energy of it. It’s pretty hard playing at some of those tempos now that we’re all a lot older. It’s pretty much at the edge of what we can physically do, I guess, but that’s part of the fun!”
Was there a point in the writing process when you felt you were on the right track?
MD: “I knew we were on the way and that it was gonna be easy when we had our first four songs instantly. Everybody was like ‘Okay, we’re gonna knock out three or four new songs and do them on the first tour…’ which was in 2010, when we did some shows with Goatsnake on the West Coast. We wanted to have some new songs and the first few that we came up with were really on point and it was a really auspicious beginning that we had. We wrote Rat City, The Moneychangers, Your Tomorrow and The Doom…the riffs from The Doom were left over from the first version of Righteous Fool that Woody and I did with Jason Paterson playing drums. So we kind of recycled a few things and made them better, but the other things we started with were instantaneous creations so we knew pretty soon we’d be on a roll. It wasn’t long before we had the other seven or eight. It was pretty easy. When you do it in fits and starts and you haven’t made a record in a while, even if you don’t have some backlog of material that you want to utilise, it’s not so hard to put something out there.”
There’s a little dash of Voivod in there somewhere…was that intentional?
MD: “Oh dude, whenever you do a fast tempo and then do something strange and sideways, it sounds like Voivod! But yeah, the song Time Of Trials was called The Voivod as a working title, right up until we recorded it, because it had a chord you wouldn’t ordinarily hear in a hardcore or metal song. It had this sweet Jimi Hendrix minor seven hammer-on, but when you play it that loud over a blazing drumbeat it’s suddenly more like Voivod. It was actually less of a strange chord than Piggy would’ve come up with, but it gives that effect. Maybe there’s some Voivod in the brief fast moments in the bridge of Your Tomorrow too. It goes like Yes, Voivod, Yes, Voivod…ha ha ha!”
The production is great: really raw but still super heavy…
MD: “Yeah, we’re really happy with it. Most of the basic tracks were recorded in a fairly fancy place called Studio 606 West, which is actually where the Foo Fighters rehearse and usually record. They do outside projects there too. It came to being when Dave Grohl got enough resources to build a place as close to the place where Nirvana had tracked the drums for Nevermind, because he really thought that went well. That was a place called Sound City where a lot of famous recordings in the 70s, 80s and 90s were made, and he basically reverse-engineered the live room, to the point of using seemingly obsolete building materials to recapture it. The floor is real simple, it’s just vinyl composition tile like you’d see in a grocery store. The walls are made out of this broadcast gypsum board with holes in it that you can’t really find anymore. He copied the angles exactly and it’s got to the point now where he’s even purchased the desk from Sound City. He’s gone further and he’s making a movie about the desk! So we did the drums and 90 per cent of it there, and then the intention was to do the vocal overdubs in North Carolina. John Costa had a place where he was working, a simple place. Then when we were on tour in Europe, doing Roadburn, a tornado came through Raleigh and just levelled this place and dropped 70-foot trees on it, so we had to come up with a plan B. We didn’t know what to do. We had more shows coming up. We met a guy that had a simple studio, nothing fancy, and we asked him if we could rent it for a month. It had a vocal booth that was isolated from the control room, not very well designed or anything, but in terms of Feng Shui it worked, so that’s where we did the vocals. We did some of them at our rehearsal space and some of the guitar overdubs at Woody’s barn, which is one of the places where we rehearse up in the mountains. It was mostly done in a fairly super professional facility, but it’s raw. It’s a large and clear documentation of something raw. We did benefit from the large soundscape that you’re afforded when you record through a full-size console like that. We didn’t go to tape or anything like that, but we did mix on the board.”
Was it important for the album to be distinct from In The Arms Of God in production terms?
MD: “One thing we didn’t do was we didn’t labour every drum hit and every guitar accent. We fixed a few mistakes that were glaring, if we didn’t actually have the opportunity to go back and do it again, but the way a lot of these recordings are crafted these days, strangely enough especially in metal, they take all the human element out of it with the drum samples being more prominent than the real hits and the entire thing is put on a grid. They may have started off with a performance that was magic but by the time you’ve made it perfect, it really does get boring. It’s really about the performance and I think we succeeded in capturing those moments and stringing them together in some songs with the spirit, without overlabouring anything.”
Would you work with Pepper again in the future?
MD: “I think we will but I don’t know when. We’re enjoying doing it this way right now and I think we’ll keep doing this for a while longer. But we’re open to working with Pepper again some day. That would be interesting for everybody, I think.”
What are your plans for 2012?
MD: “I have to dig deep to see what’s conjecture and what’s definite. There’s gonna be a lot of touring, I know that. We start in the US in the Spring and then Europe in the later spring and the summer with some festivals. It’s gonna be fairly non-stop. And they want us to make a music video, which I don’t really see the need for. I think what they’re gonna get is a short film about the length of and vaguely related to whatever song we decide. I don’t see us dedicating more than a couple of weeks to that and we will not be pretending to play our instruments and sing!”
Where do you think you guys will fit in for the new generation of kids listening to heavy music? How will they see what you do?
MD: “I don’t care, man. I just hope people have some ears for it and it’s good to have some fresh ears out there. I really hope, my sincere hope is that it will stomp some people into thinking beyond some of those categorisations, you know? What I see among younger people beginning ten years ago or so and increasing now into this preposterously amazing level, is this hyper-classification of music into smaller and smaller subgenres of metal that are fairly similar but you’ll meet people who pledge allegiance to one or two and denounce the other, very similar, strikingly similar varieties and also shut out other forms of expression in a kneejerk way. To me, I always had big ears in terms of the different styles of music I grew up listening to, so I’d like to see more open-mindedness going on.”
Interview by Dom Lawson (Metal Hammer)
This is the first album to be written and recorded by the same, stable line-up. Has that made a huge difference to the outcome?
Steve Beatty (bass guitar): “It took a long time to get to this point. Me and Matt were the nucleus when we started and Ben’s been there since day one. Me and Matt were the organisers in our band and Ben was the organiser in his, so we wanted to get someone else like that to complete it, but we didn’t! It’s one of those things, when you’re in a band and you need a drummer, but he had to go and he did. We just felt that we had to put up with it because although he wasn’t perfect, we had a band and you have to get on with stuff. How long do you wait for the right person? It’s like falling in love. You can’t try to fall in love. It just happens. Then the next guy came along and he was just another nightmare. We’re not snobby or up our own arses but we’re all decent people and we’re interested in talking about events, politics, religion, well the world…and we have adult conversations. We asked him ‘What books have you read?’ and he said ‘What’s a book?’ Matt kept saying to me, ‘Just ignore it, he’s a good drummer!’ but he didn’t do his job so he had to go as well! In the end, John (Watt) came along and it took a while to fit personally with the rest of us because he’s a very reserved and quiet character but he clicked and he’s the glue now. He’s been with us for three years now.”
What do you think are the main differences The last album, Holy Armour In The Jaws Of God, looked like it was going to be a huge success for the band, but then you were unable to tour…what happened?
Steve: “John came in, we did the record and we got some great press and everything was happening, but then I got that ear infection and couldn’t tour. I got really bad tinnitus and my hearing specialist just said that I had to lay off it, get used to it and then calm it down, get some earplugs and wait until my ears were strong enough. By the time we got back into things after taking a hiatus, we figured there was no point in touring Holy Armour now. We’d missed the boat on it and there wasn’t any point in going out and playing loads of gigs after taking a year and a half off. We might as well use the time to make a new record. The pressure was off. No one was expecting us to play a gig and no one had heard from us in a year and a half, so we just started rehearsing again and then started writing again. It’s the first time I’ve ever been in a band that’s had the opportunity to write 30 songs and finish with ten! We threw away so much material and so many ideas and riffs. To his credit, Ben wanted to take total control over writing the lyrics for the first time. We didn’t have to say to him ‘I’ve got something written, what do you think of this?’ because he already had it covered. John was going home and working out drum patterns and stuff, and we all felt like we were working on something as a unit for the first time, and it was really enjoyable!”
Do you all see eye-to-eye on everything when you write songs?
Steve: “Well, we still had the arguments you’d expect. It wasn’t like Some Kind Of Monster because we’re not a bunch of muppets like Metallica managed to make of themselves in that movie, but we had some of those moments, like ‘Just play the fucking riff!’ and all that. But it was an enjoyable experience. When we went in to record it I thought it would turn out really good. We were very hopeful. When it was finished, I went into the studio and John Mitchell had done his work on it and I couldn’t believe that it was us. Regardless of how it sounds, we’re all really proud of what we’ve done. We’ve never been into it for the money or the fame. We can all sit back and say that we’ve done something we’re really proud of and that’s good enough for us.”
Our Souls To You is a very focused record, but it’s diverse too…was that intentional?
Steve: “Because we’d written it over a long period of time there were all these influences coming in. For instance I was really getting back into anarchist punk, back when we were writing Public Display. Ben and I had been talking about the old ‘80s days when there seemed to be a whole youth movement that wanted to change the world. He said it was a real shame that he was too young to have been a part of that because that would have been an amazing thing and that you don’t even get kids wanting to vote these days! We were discussing this and he seemed like he just wanted to go and have a fucking riot on his own, so let’s just write a song about it then! So we talked about doing a song called Riot, but that sounds a bit too ‘80s and we wanted something a bit more stuck-up, so it became a public display of anger. I said to Ben that it would be so good to just vent your disagreement with everything. So that’s one example of the combination of generations and influences that are going on on this record.”
It must be satisfying to fill a gap, lyrically and conceptually, that few young bands seem eager to fill at the moment…
Steve: “Not only is that a horrible state of affairs, but it’s also what turns me off of a lot of stuff now. All the bands I grew up with, I connected with that music because it connected not only to my ears but my soul and my mind. We just can’t write a record about girls. It’s not that we’re a bunch of depressives, it’s that there’s a real anger coming from all four of us and we need to debate and inspire ideas and discussion. I don’t want people to turn around and go ‘Here’s another ten songs about ripping up corpses’. I’m 42, John is 24 and he feels the same way! I would really like to think, in a totally non-pretentious way, that we might inspire someone to think about some things. We’re not trying to change anyone’s life, but we’ve got something to say so we’re saying it. It doesn’t need to be any more than that, and we’re certainly not apologising for saying it. If you don’t want to listen, then don’t!”
Do you think that standing out from the crowd like that has been a hindrance as much as a benefit for you?
Steve: “Of course it has. Our motivation isn’t on the basis of being on the front cover of magazines. As far as we’re concerned, we’re doing exactly what we want to do. That’s our mission statement and we’re not interested in doing anything else.”
What made you decide to ask both John Mitchell and Justin Broadrick to produce different versions of the album?
Steve: “Well, we realised on the first two albums where we’d gone wrong on production values. Matt’s a unique guitarist because he’s really into classic rock stuff and he’s a massive Led Zeppelin fan, but then he’s really into all of Josh Homme’s stuff and then he really likes Big Black, early Stranglers, Killing Joke and all that, which makes for a great combination of styles and he’s a very good guitarist. Then you’ve got Johnny who’s a really serious metal drummer, a technical drummer. We’ve got two camps, basically. John and Ben are younger and more into contemporary metal stuff and they want a big production to bring that out, while me and Matt were thinking that we wanted to strip it down, lay it bare and have it as raw as possible, like a 1982 production or something. As far as me and Matt are concerned, we’d like it to be more like a live band in a room. Anyway, I knew Justin Broadrick and Matt and I really like Godflesh, so we said ‘Why don’t we ask him?’ We sent him the songs to see what he thought of the material and that was it, so he did his version of the album. So that satisfied both camps in the band. From a listener’s point of view, if you’re a metal fan getting into us, you’ve got this big rock record to get into. But we also appeal to a lot of people to the left hand side of that, fans of Killing Joke, Fear Factory, Big Black, the indie crowd. I’ve got mates that are into metal that think we’re brilliant, and I’ve got mates that aren’t into metal at all that think we’re brilliant. So we wanted to satisfy both camps in the band and both camps that like us. You get the double-disc for the price of one album. We didn’t raise the price to compensate.”
Is this something you will repeat in the future?
Steve: “On the next record, you’ll probably see more of a combination of both sides of our sound. Ben and John aren’t really that keen on the Broadrick mixes, but they’re warming to them. I think we all like both sides to some degree. Maybe it’s part of our evolution to find some agreement beforehand and settle on a mixture. Maybe it’s helping to define where we’re going. Bands need to find new ideas all the time. I listen to the Broadrick mixes and I think ‘That’s pretty mental!’ There’s a hell of a lot of clanking going on there! But as far as we’re concerned, it’s one record and we don’t want to see the Broadrick version as a secondary disc or a side issue, because we actually think it’s better to say that the album stands as it is. The album is those songs repeated. Some people won’t see that, but then some people are stupid. As a band you put yourself out there and some people will love you and some will hate you. We’re just throwing the record out there and you can rest assured that whatever people say about it, we won’t be that bothered! I’m not there to pander to idiots. I’m there to satisfy myself.”
Now that you’re ready to hit the road and tour properly this time round, what kind of bands do you see yourself playing with? Do you care?
Steve: “We played a show with Nashville Pussy recently, and you couldn’t get more of a contrast, but people really liked it. It’s a funny thing, being a musician and walking on stage and expecting people to hate you, but they didn’t! If we are a band that juxtaposes itself into many things, then that’s great. I don’t say I’m a metalhead, I’m a fan of music. I’ll listen to Discharge or Public Image or Bigelf or Fear Factory. I just like really good music. I think Bryan Adams’ Run To You is a great record. I like Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen, but I don’t want to buy all of his other records. We can play with anyone and that’s a good thing. For the first time we’ve been getting lots of offers for things, which is great. More will happen when the record’s out because we’ve either been written off or forgotten and the new record has been received fantastically well and that’s hugely positive. We just did the tour with Fear Factory, so it’s just beginning. I see this as the real beginning of October File. We’ve defined ourselves with this record and we’re going to get a broader appeal than before. We can move on from here. And if we don’t, we don’t! I can’t think of any better reason to be in a band than to be with my friends and make good music. I don’t give a damn about being famous and I don’t give a damn about a different career or anything. I just really like being in October File. I love what we do and we’re good at it. As long as we all enjoy doing it, I’ll be happy.”
Victor Safonkin has created another stunning album cover for Our Souls To You…did you ever consider using anyone else?
Steve: “It would be hard not to use Victor. How do you follow on from the Holy Armour cover without him? A picture of a Ford Fiesta? Ha ha! The thing is, he sums us up really well and it’s great. Victor floats between worlds and they must be really fantastic worlds because his imagination is just incredible. We found that the image suited the religious theme of the title, although it still amazes me that people don’t understand what Our Souls To You means…”
Yes…arseholes to you!Steve: “Some people still don’t get that! Ha! Victor just fits really well. The artwork looks all serious yet it’s bananas, but it works. If people don’t get that we’re saying ‘arseholes to you!’ then they’re definitely not going to understand the cover or why there’s some guy carrying a massive fish! Ha ha ha! It’s just incredible. We thought about doing something else this time, but what could we do? His imagination is unquestionably fantastic, but he also has this amazing ability to paint! He’s up there with any classic artist. It’s skilful. It’s not just a picture of a Campbell’s soup can, this is real. It’s the difference between someone playing three chords in a punk band and some kind of Beethoven-type guy. He’s incredible. He’s the same as what we’re trying to do as a band. We’re trying to be unique and to be the best we can be all the time. Who wants to sound like every other generic heard-it-all-before band? And there are plenty of them about…”
Interview by Dom Lawson (Metal Hammer)
After is a big departure from your previous solo albums, and even further away from Emperor in certain ways. Was this a deliberate attempt to redefine what you do?ďI donít know. I didnít really think of it in the sense that I wanted it to be that different musically. It wasnít really intended, but I guess itís quite far from my previous two albums, now that itís finished. But apart from the concept being quite different and writing it for an eight-string guitar which, of course, gives me an opportunity to change my way of doing things...but I kind of agree with you that the whole atmosphere is very different. But the way that I wrote it was exactly the same as before.Ē
What do you think are the main differences between these songs and those on AngL and The Adversary?
“I’m not sure. The reason that this one is different, and also the concept, the mental preparation for it and the atmosphere…well, the main difference is that the first two were very direct and aggressive lyrically, and the interpretation was very literal, but the lyrics and concept for this album is not about life, it’s the landscape, the barren lands, and there’s a lot of symbolism in there, and epic scenery and half-Nietzschean quotes.”
People associate black metal with vast landscapes and imposing scenery, but in fact very few black metal bands have ever touched upon those subjects in a meaningful wayÖďYes, itís a preconception people have. All the early covers and the pictures of the bands with corpse-painted kids out in the woods and all that, yeah. It is the barren lands in a metaphorical sense anyway. Itís imaginary stuff really, but based on things around where I live too, I guess. There are a lot of references to Mars, the red sand storms and on on, and Iím not talking about Australia! Maybe I should pretend that it is. But there are some vague Mars references in there, but itís very much about solitary spaces.Ē
You have stated that After represents the end of a trilogy, but it seems almost separate from the previous two records and a much more focused album that stands aloneÖďWhen I heard it through when mixing it, I hadnít realised that it was such a slow album. I didnít really realise until I heard it all the way through that the material was so heavy, in that sense. Itís hard to explain how these things happen. Apart from me being very conscious about a different kind of concept and having different inspirations, my approach to writing it has been very similar to how I approached the two previous albums. Iím just happy to see that apparently thereís more to what I do as an artist than just the practical methodology. I was kind of afraid that by using an eight-string guitar for the first time I would end up writing stuff that sounded like Meshuggah or whatever, but I donít think the songs sound particularly down-tuned. I just played in a similar way that I always play guitar. Iím glad that the album can be observed in a new way, because I didnít want to do something obvious. Getting that kind of guitar and doing something similar to what other people do would be pointless, I think.Ē
Is this a further expression of the liberation you feel as a solo artist, freed from the shackles of black metal and the Emperor phenomenon?ďI suppose that in one sense I was probably more conscious about how I approached things and the specific musical things I wanted to do, especially on the first solo album but also on the second one, but itís just a very subjective feeling. My impression, having made this album, is that Iím very at ease with it. I wasnít trying too hard to go in one direction. Itís just a very honest album. Thereís not a lot of technicalities. Itís very honest and very natural, and some of the best parts are some of the least technical. The last riff on the album only has two chords and it goes on for a long time, but it just felt good like that. I can really relate to it myself in a peaceful way. Then again, even though itís this solo thing and I can do whatever I want, doing these three albums Iíve reached out and opened up a bit more, taking in influences from other people that Iíve brought along. Mixing this album with Jens [Bogren] and giving Jurgen [MÝnkeby] such a big part on saxophone, those things have made a difference. Subconsciously I was a bit afraid when I started the solo stuff, because everything would be compared to what I did before, but I think Iíve found my new form. The first album is the most experimental because I had to try out lots of different approaches. AngL was more cohesive, but After is definitely the most cohesive solo album that Iíve done. Everything that is on the album is there for a natural reason.Ē
You seem happier with the idea of collaborating and allowing other people to contributeÖďI guess Iím just more comfortable in my solo role now and that makes me loosen up more and let it flow, like I did on the first Emperor albums. You do it from pure instinct, but after a while you become more conscious of what people expect. The need for change is very obvious on the last two Emperor albums, compared to the first two. So this record is coming full circle. On an atmospheric level, this album is probably closer to the atmosphere on the first two Emperor albums than the albums I made in between. Itís flowing and epic.Ē
What made you decide to add saxophone to your music for the first time?ďI started using brass instruments even though they were just samples, on the Anthems album. I always thought the brass instruments were the distorted guitars of the orchestra. After In The Nightside Eclipse I was bored with the typical choirs and strings, and thatís why I used the brass because it adds harshness to it. The reason for the saxophone is that I had this image, this sonic memory and impression of the saxophone as this very, very solitary instrument. Of course itís not always used like that, but the sound of it is this very lonely thing for me and I wanted to get that element into my music. I was very surprised, because Iíd never really heard a saxophone in the same room, just by listening to it on an album or from afar, and I realised that the sound in my head was actually the mixture of a horn, a trumpet and a saxophone, but in the context of this album the saxophone was exactly what I wanted.Ē
Has it been liberating to write as a solo artist, and to be able to write slower songs with less blastbeats and more space between the instruments?ďI think so. The overall impression or the way of doing it is very extreme, but Iíve always been into having beautiful elements in there, and thatís where the more epic, symphonic parts of Emperor came from, I think. Itís all extreme, but the underlying melodies and the feel of it arenít that extreme, and I think with this material I can put a bit more emphasis on that element without everything going at 150 beats per minute the whole time.Ē
What does the saxophone bring to After?ďJurgen really emphasised the atmosphere that I wanted to achieve on this record. He comes from a totally different background and he improvised in a totally different way and picked notes and melodies that I would never have thought of. All the improvisation happened in two or three takes. At some point he played something really cool but I didnít think it fitted with the atmosphere I was going for, so I explained some of these scenarios and landscapes that I had in my head and where I wanted to go, and he totally turned the music around and did something completely different that was spot on. I am very satisfied with the whole record. Itís probably the best thing Iíve ever done, I think.Ē
Rapidly becoming one of the biggest players in the European metal world, Finland’s Insomnium invoked huge waves of approval for their 2006 album Above The Weeping World. Since then, they’ve played countless shows on both sides of the Atlantic and now, finally, they’re back with their fourth studio album, the incredible Across The Dark. We spoke to guitarist and founder member Ville Friman about the new record and the past, present and future of Insomnium…
“I think we toured a lot this time. A lot more than previously. We did the Satyricon tour first. It was six weeks long and our first European tour and it was really excellent. Then we did a lot of touring in Finland. After that, in 2007, we did an American tour with Katatonia, Scar Symmetry and Swallow The Sun and after that we went around Europe again with Amorphis and Swallow The Sun. So basically we were pretty busy from the release of the album in 2006, in the autumn, and then in 2008 we decided to have a pause from playing shows and we decided then to concentrate on working on songs for a new album. That’s basically what we did last year. We also have other projects and our professions and personal lives, so we dedicated all our spare time to rehearsing and writing songs so that we could make the new album and release it in 2009. It was quite hectic in other ways, but we didn’t tour a lot last year. I think it was a wise decision to concentrate on new songs.”
So, what’s been happening since the release of Above The Weeping World?
Were you surprised or inspired by the incredibly positive reaction that you received for Above The Weeping World?
“Actually, I felt some pressure this time because the last album got such great reviews and people were really excited about it. So the new album had to be really good, a better album than Above The Weeping World. I got a bit stressed about it, worrying whether we could come up with better songs this time round. That’s the main reason we wanted to have time to work on the songs and rehearse. It was inspiring. We had two songs kind of ready at the beginning of 2008 and one of those songs was finally ready at the end of that year, so it was worthwhile spending time to get the feel right and to reflect on what would make the songs better. It was an inspiring time for us. Now it will be really nice to get out there and play shows again, because we’ve had this break from touring.”
Was there anything that you wanted to do differently on the new album?“Yeah, it’s hard to compare one album to another. It’s a natural continuation from Above The Weeping World, but we did want to try more clean vocals. It really divides people, doesn’t it? When we didn’t have any clean vocals people were nagging us about it, saying that we should have some. I’m pretty sure that now that we have some clean vocals that people will be complaining that it doesn’t work! But that was one thing that we wanted to try out. I think this album is a bit more epic and atmospheric. The songs turned out to be pretty long and we put toned down the aggression and focused more on heaviness and the doom vibe. It came pretty naturally, so it wasn’t like we really tried to change the sound. Every time we wrote a song, it inspired the next one, if you know what I mean.”
Touring must have influenced your writing to some degree…“I think it had an influence in the sense that on Above The Weeping World we were really focused on making an album where all the songs could be played live, so we didn’t have any synths or any of that stuff. We could play it with just the four of us. This was also important on the new album. We don’t need any extra stuff to play these songs live. The songs work well, so I think that’s what you realise when you see which songs hit the audience well when you play live. If the songs work in a more simplified way, that’s better for us. It makes it easier when we’re in the studio too. We don’t have to rely on adding extra instruments when we make an album.”
The last album had some very strong lyrical themes. Is there an overall concept behind the new record?“I think the lyrical theme is a bit more diverse on this album. I don’t think there is a straight theme, it’s more about the realities of life. As you get older, it’s not black and white anymore and it’s all about a combination of good and bad times. I made more lyrics this time. I wanted to write lyrics for my own songs. There’s some similarity with the old lyrics, but it’s not just about love gone bad. It’s hard to describe, but I suppose it’s about life in general. There’s no one story that covers the whole album, or maybe there is and I haven’t discovered it yet!”
Which song do you think defines the new album best?“This album is its own entity, from the way it feels to how long it is to the way the songs connect. Maybe the second and third songs? I don’t know. There’s some great atmospheric stuff. Some of the songs are melodic death metal but we’ve also gone into this atmospheric area too. I guess the first four songs capture everything that’s happening on the album. They show the diversity. I can’t just pick one of them! ‘Against The Stream’, the fifth song, has that Gothenburg vibe. I had that riff ready when we did the last album. It’s really good to play live. I just thought it needed to be faster and to have that Gothenburg beat in it. We’re mixing the old with the new on this album.”
Now that everybody has a Facebook page and a MySpace site, have you been taking the opportunity to communicate with the band’s growing fan base?“I used to communicate more previously, to be honest! Now we’re getting more and more emails and comments on MySpace and sometimes it’s too much when you’re working and you don’t have the time and energy to answer everything. We do try to be an interactive band and reply to messages online. It’s always been good after shows, because we put all our gear away and then go out and talk with the audience. It was particularly good in America because everybody bought us drinks! That was pretty useful! We could get drunk for free and it was really nice to meet people. We were really surprised by the audiences in the US, because they were really enthusiastic and many of them had been waiting to see us for a long time. It was great to go and have chat with people. People were so friendly. You have this view that America is full of rednecks, but that wasn’t what we experienced. People were cool.”
With such a strong album in the can, are you excited about the future?“I don’t really think about that so much. I’ll be really pleased if we can tour like we did after releasing the last album. What I’d like to do is more European summer festivals, because we haven’t done many of those in the past, but now we have a European booking agent so we’ll get some festivals in the future. We’re playing at Bloodstock in the UK this autumn, so it’s looking good so far. I hope we can keep up the same amount of touring and if we get more popular then that’s a bonus for us. You never can tell what’s going to happen.”
Metal is so huge in Finland…is it becoming even more popular at the moment?
“I think it has reached this high level of popularity and it wasn’t that popular when I was young. When I was a kid, if you had long hair people would be spitting at you in the street and shit like that! Ha ha ha! Now it’s a good thing that people like it so much. They’ll say ‘Oh, you’re in a rock band! That’s great!’ It’s kind of fashionable to be into rock, I guess. Metal has laid its foundation in Finland. There’s a lot of bands playing and a lot of bands are really good. It’s a good time.”
“Oh, no. We drink all the time! Right now, we’re about to rehearse but we didn’t bother setting up the equipment, we just went and got beer instead. Ha ha ha! That’s really important. This can’t be like work. We work all the time so playing in the band is our free time and our holidays! We have to work hard, but we should be having a good time at the same time. It’s natural to get drunk with your friends and then play some metal too!”
But you haven’t stopped drinking, surely?
Fuck me…this album takes off like a rocket-propelled rat from a drainpipe. Obviously past albums haven’t exactly been quiet and slow, but is there a specific reason for this renewed level of intensity and violence?Thank you. Yes there is - Mick. The ideology and atmosphere I try to build around the music will always be extreme to the point of being maniacal because I’m not quite right, but the basis is always going to be the music, and aside from the odd chat or idea I might suggest, that’s entirely down to Mick. After he’d recorded the songs, a mutual friend had the chance to listen to some of it before I went to the studio, and when I asked him how it sounded he just said ‘fucking heavy!’ The thing I think we both had in mind for this album was for it to be darker, more sinister. It’s still typically varied, but there’s a darker and more intense seam running through everything from the music and the subject matter to the tone and style of the artwork. The opening part of the album is just pungently evil, then all hell breaks loose and it blasts off into the stratosphere. It’s all about impact. The silly thing is, there will still be people who say we’ve ‘continued’ down the path to becoming a tame melodic death band. People are free to think what they like, it’s their loss.
Has the new material been at all influenced by your more regular ventures into the realm of live performance?
No, not really. For example some of the album is a good bit faster than previously, so no consideration is shown for the poor bastard who has to play the drums for one song after another after another! When you’re listening to a CD, it’s the experience of listening to the CD that’s important, not whether or not you think someone could stand in front of you and play it. I love Obscura by Gorguts, but the reason I love it is because it sounds so chaotic and driven, not because I know the guitar parts are hard. We will pull it all off live, I know that, but the focus of what you do in the studio has to be the feeling you’re conveying, that’s paramount. And Anaal Nathrakh in full flight should sound like having your eyeballs pulled out through your arsehole by someone staring at the sky and screaming ‘NO!’ while they deep throat a gun. Hmm, there’s a catchy summation.
No one can fail to have noticed that the world has become an even more fucked up place recently…does the current state of the world play into your hands as harbingers of doom and despair, or would you rather everything turned out okay in the end?As an individual and in terms of my family and so on, I hope it all works out – I just want to live and be happy as far as is possible. The problem is that I’m convinced that it won’t all work out. Not necessarily tomorrow, but eventually it’ll all go catastrophically wrong. And that’s as much inevitable as it is a terrible, terrible shame. I don’t think that most people, me included, have even the start of an understanding of how fucked up things really are – do you know who John Major went to work for after he was PM? Have you seen Zeitgeist or heard Rob Newman lately? Have you been asked to prove your identity to buy a copy of certain books yet? Why has the global economy slumped? Are you sure? Still, no need to worry – if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear. Pah!
Could you elaborate on the lyrical specifics of this album…and the significance of ‘…the constellation of the black widow’?The title is based on a metaphor used in the book ‘Moment of Freedom’ by Jens Bjørneboe. It’s an amazing, exhausting book, an apparently semi-autobiographical first person account of a character living through the era of the Second World War. But believe me, it is nothing like what you would expect from that description. It’s incredibly rich, yet strangely detached – the author quotes Dante in the vernacular, there’s extensive, detailed analysis of art (I had a print of ‘The Hangman’s Tree’ by Jacques Callot bought as a present for me after I was blown away by the description of it in the book), withering observations on anthropology and the human capacity for generating misery, stunningly vivid depictions of phases of mental illness, it’s a travelogue, and so on. At one point the protagonist claims that within the next ten years, he will have accumulated so much knowledge of the cruelty and inhumanity of the world that life will become untenable. Then ten years after the book’s publication, the author killed himself. And there’s one bizarre yet chilling passage where he’s recounting key events in history in a voice detached to the point of insanity, interspersed with a discussion of the art museums he’s visited. One line will mention the ‘experiments in vivisection’ being conducted in ‘Teutonia’ (by which he means Mengele etc.) and the next will be about a particular painting he’s seen at such and such a gallery. The effect is intense, the depth of feeling involved is intentionally glaringly conspicuous by its absence – the author brings it horrifyingly home by not even saying it. And towards the end of the passage, he says that Uranus and Pluto have come together in the sign of the Black Widow, meaning that the atomic bombs have been detonated over Japan. It’s easy to bandy around concepts like nuclear war, a lot of bands do it. But by using something so involved and poetic, I was trying to underline the fact that thousands of people screaming to their deaths in the most cataclysmic event in human history isn’t just a piece of historical trivia. Of course I understand that a lot of people neither know nor care about the references etc and that’s fine – this is an album of music, not a post graduate exam. You don’t need to know about all this stuff to get your fill out of the album. And the title just sounds fucking cool in its own right. But these things are important to me, so that’s what goes into the mix. I could be here forever explaining what the Lucifer Effect means, the book of Isaiah, how I decided to interpret Nostradamus for ‘More of Fire…’ and everything else, but that’d need a whole other interview!
With bands as sonically extreme as your selves, there is sometimes a fine line between pushing the boundaries further and becoming totally unlistenable…how do you consistently walk that tightrope with such great balance?You have to listen to what you’re doing with the ear of a fan. For all the misanthropy, we’re still trying to ensure that people will get something out of listening to what we produce. Then again, different people’s definition of ‘unlistenable’ will vary. I love listening to the most extreme noise music and even sometimes the sounds of industrial machinery, but most people would hardly consider those listenable or musical. It’s a good thing that I don’t make the music because it’d probably have tumbled off that tightrope a long time ago. Mick has a good instinct for knowing what’s musically worthwhile. Another thing is to think organically – it wouldn’t be hard to make a song at 1000 bpm, but that would be pointless because we wouldn’t enjoy listening to it. You have to be not only your own sternest critic but also your own primary consumer. And the biggest thing is imagination - one reason our music is so varied and even catchy despite its extremity is that we strive to remain imaginative the whole time.
Clearly your worldview is not a particularly joyful or optimistic one, so what motivates you as an artist these days? Is there a goal to be achieved here or is this just an exercise in venting and catharsis for you?It’s not so much venting, although is it cathartic. But simply venting would imply ‘get it all out and have done with it’. Anaal Nathrakh is more snapshots of an ongoing thing, so a better word could be articulation. The goal is expression of the barely expressible. It’s the same as art – just because we don’t have a political or material goal doesn’t mean that expression of something that others can appreciate and identify with can’t be a goal in itself. The two of us have different reasons – for the most part Mick simply enjoys making music that has the right ‘aaargh!’ feeling. Since he was a kid he’s been enraptured by that feeling in music (as well as many other things, of course) and he loves creating sounds that pile on the aaaargh. For me the weltanschauung is just as important – it’s about making a cool/satisfying noise, and of course giving the listener an appropriate experience both in terms of the sound itself and the basic joy of hearing something exhilarating/interesting/steeped in the occult and hatred. But it’s also about having that noise be a direct translation of the sense of the world that I have.
The Emperor and King Diamond influences are ever more in evidence on the new album…does the more epic, bombastic and melodic elements in your sound point at a desire to reach a bigger audience, or are they simply necessary pieces in the jigsaw?Strange, people have been mentioning an Emperor influence for a while now, and there literally isn’t one, never really has been. Similarity, perhaps, but you’d have to ask someone who spends a lot of time listening to Emperor – we wouldn’t know. Still, it’s hardly an insult. We’re not the kind of people who would want to make sure that noone can buy one of our albums unless they’re wearing a t-shirt selected from a list of five approved bands and get their bullet belts from the right manufacturer. But neither are we Fear Factory or whatever your pet hate commercially orientated band is. We simply make music that we think sounds good, and the audience will either come or it won’t. We have a vested interest in people buying our albums of course – if plenty of people do so, we can get enough money for some new guitars or recording equipment and that sort of thing. But that’s all, and the only factor that dictates what we play is what we want to hear ourselves. The parts you’re talking about are there because we like them, same as the parts that are like a jackhammer up your nose. We like soaring and we like skin peelingly brutal, so we do them. And yes, all the shades are important to getting across the atmosphere we’re aiming for. We’re easily capable of doing other things if we wanted to be more commercially viable, but we’re not Paradise Lost circa 1996 – to be honest I find the suggestion laughable.
Did you ever anticipate that Anaal Nathrakh would be releasing its fifth full-length album? Does it surprise you that you’re still doing this?
The most intense flame burns out fastest? No and no. To begin with, we never thought about the future at all, our only concern was for what we were doing at the time. And that’s still largely the case, although now we’re aware that we’ve got a three album deal with Candlelight, so we are to an extent forced to think about releasing our sixth album at some point. But we keep our heads down and focus on the present – which is precisely why it doesn’t surprise me we’re still doing it – it’s unfulfilled expectations that kill appreciation. We don’t really have expectations, so there’s no hopes to be dashed and every good thing is a bonus. For the same reason, it wouldn’t have surprised me if we’d split up by now. We started from nothing and have continued pretty much that way ever since simply by concentrating only on the things that make up our internal world, and then we end up standing on a stage in Norway, Maryland, at Hellfest in front of, I don’t know, several thousand people. You would be hard pushed to find anyone who was less of a rock star, so it’s continually astonishing to me and I can’t see any reason not to carry on for the time being.
Why & how did you end up signing with Candlelight? What sealed the deal for you?We actually got a lawyer to look over the contracts for the first time! Usually I’ve been the one to go through our contracts – I can decipher the legal language, but I’m hardly an expert. But Mick had ended up peripherally getting in touch with a chap who worked as a music industry lawyer for some time, and so when labels came along, Mick asked him to take a look at what they were saying. We knew we wanted a label that was a bit bigger than we’d had in the past – when you’ve worked so hard on an album, you want to be able to make the most of it. We’re not interested in being the new Dimmu Borgir, but having a label with a decent distribution and promotion network working for you means you’re that much better off in terms of getting your stuff out there and into the hands of people who want to hear it. So we ended up speaking to a few notable labels, and Candlelight was the one that made most sense. They know who and what we are, and we know they’ve got the infrastructure and ability to handle a decent sized band. It’s not a meeting of soul mates and we’re not signed to them for life, it’s just a competent label who showed a belief in the band. Hopefully things will go well and everyone will be satisfied – because then with that out of the way, we can get on with the aspects of being in a band that really matter to us.
It’s early days at the moment – as of now there’s still over two months before the album’s released, and we’ve been working towards that more than thinking about what happens next. We’ve got a few shows lined up, and there will be more added to the list as we re-surface in the collective consciousness of promoters. There are a couple of festivals in mainland Europe, a domestic show or two, and a “proper”-ish tour of America has been discussed. Society’s got around three and a half years left, so we may as well try to achieve something with what little time we have!
What are your plans after the release of the new album? Will there be more shows and even a “proper” tour this year?
It’s been four years since ‘Hellfire’…what’s been happening during that time?ARCHAON (guitars): Oh, a whole lot of things has happened since back then. To start off from there (2005), we undertook the longest European tour we’ve been on so far, together with Gorgoroth. 5 weeks that was, visiting 5 places in Spain (where we had never been before), as well as Portugal. We also performed in France, Germany, UK, Ireland, Scotland, Czech rep, Slovenia, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden + more. 2006 brought a bunch of festivals, followed by a short UK tour together with Enslaved, Zyklon & Insomnium. After that, we visited the US/Canada/Mexico for the first time, as we had the privilege of joining none others than Celtic Frost on their 2006 tour. 2007 saw us being able to headline a 4- week tour in US/Canada together with support acts Goatwhore, Nachtmystium and Averse Sefira, as well as touring the UK for another week. We also played another bunch of festivals, amongst them Wacken Open Air for the 1st time, which of course was an experience. Last year, South by Southwest invited us to perform in the US again, and towards the end of 2008 we had the great honour of joining the legends Carcass on their US/Canada tour. On the bill was also Suffocation, Aborted, Rotten Sound, Necrophagist, Dying Fetus, Pig Destroyer and some other local supports. A great experience for us! This year, we toured the US/Canada again with a couple of songs in the repertoire from our new album, Revelations Of The Black Flame. And, can you believe it, in between here, we’ve also been in the studio recording! So there hasn’t been years of rest, so to speak.
It’s immediately obvious that the new album is very, very different from past 1349 records. What made you change the band’s sound so radically?
ARCHAON: We wanted to show another side of 1349. I mean, there’s only so much of the same one can take before it loses the effect, even if the energy’s still there. So we decided to approach this album with a whole different angle than before, wanting to create a soundtrack for the apocalypse. I believe we succeeded.
Is this a logical progression for you? Do you think the essence of the 1349 sound remains the same??
ARCHAON: One can definitely still hear that it’s 1349, but there’s more variation in the material than ever before. I personally think that this is an illogical step, as logic doesn’t come into priority as such when writing music. Of course, you have the logic sense of what is a well written song, but apart from that, what makes the creative side interesting is that there’s no boundaries to what one can do or can’t do. Revelations… is a very dark album, possibly the darkest one we’ve created so far.
How did Tom G. Warrior become involved in the project? Was that a dream come true for you guys?
ARCHAON: Well, we got in touch with the Celtic Frost guys in 2004, when we first toured Europe with Gorgoroth. We weren’t aware that they were present, and played the song “The Usurper” on the show in Switzerland that night. After the show, the guys came backstage with us and we talked/introduced ourselves. Being a long time- major fan of the band, Ravn kept in touch with Tom which eventually led to them inviting us on the 2006 tour, and to further collaboration. He is a very knowledgeable smart gent Tom, and he definitely had an impact on the album. As a matter of fact, he also guests on bass guitar on the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Set the controls for the heart of the sun”.
What kind of reactions have you received so far regarding the new album?
ARCHAON: People are surprised, no doubt about that. But in a positive way. We’ve only gotten good feedback so far… Maybe people do not dare to say otherwise, ha ha! So far, I’ve seen one review (and that was quick, as the album was available for the press this week!). That was Imhotep `zine from Norway, which was a 5/6. Not bad, huh? Seems the listeners shouldn’t be underrated, as they can listen carefully and capture the magic there after all…
Do you think you will lose some fans and gain new ones too?
ARCHAON: There’s a great chance for that, yes. But to be honest with you, whether it’ll be an album of success or not was not the motivation for us making it. It simply had to turn out that way, as it was how the album created itself. There are some more classical 1349 bits there as well, all mixed in with slower, doomy parts.
Will this material be performed live? If so, will that change the nature of a 1349 gig?
ARCHAON: Of course! We’re not disgraced in any way, nor do we think it lacks standard- it’s just a bit different than blast beats all the way and back, you know what I mean? We’ve already played two songs from it on the US/Canada tour this year, and on the show we’ve done in Norway. That’s all shows so far this year, but there’s more shows coming up where the material will be blended in perfectly with the old catalogue. As a matter of fact, it seems to work miracles in terms of energy onstage.
Could you explain the concept behind the album’s title?
ARCHAON: I’d rather not, as anything that is set before you listen to it yourself might have an effect on your experience. As previously, it’s best if you approach it with your own perception, and read into it what you will. Frost came up with the title, and I instantly liked it- because for me, it rang the bells of 1349 coming back from this four year hiatus, keeping the black flame burning bright. In addition to that, it can symbolize a wide spectre of different things/subjects.
Why does fire have such a massive symbolic and conceptual importance for 1349 and for black metal in general?
ARCHAON: The word is powerful in itself and demands a natural respect. For a great part pf mankind’s time, it has been a vital part of our existence, a source of existence. Fire being one of the four elements, is one that both gives and takes. It can nurture in terms of heat, enlightenment, in terms of life. It divides light/dark. But it can also devour it all in matter of short time.
What are your plans for the rest of 2009? And where do you think the band will go next musically?
ARCHAON: We’ve got a pretty full schedule out the rest of this year. On the live front, we’ve gotten offers for a bunch of festivals, and so far we’ve confirmed one in Czech, three in Germany and one in Norway. We’re also thinking about doing a UK tour again towards the end of the year, and more festivals might be added. So, there’s some live activity throughout the rest of the year. With regards to where we’ll go next musically, I’d say we have to extend all that we’ve done so far. That is, in terms of darkness, aggression, melancholy, spirit- all that makes up a good Black Metal album. I think I may promise you that we won’t disappoint… We don’t usually, do we?